National foreign student enrollment climbs despite local ’02-’03 drop

The Institute of International Education reported that 70 percent of 360 two- and four-year U.S. colleges reported increases.

Elizabeth Dunbar

International student enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities is steady or increasing, according to recent survey results from the Institute of International Education.

The institute – which administers the U.S. government’s Fulbright program – surveyed 360 two- and four-year colleges and universities.

While survey respondents were anonymous, international enrollment at the University has declined during the 2002-03 academic year.

“I look at those data and wonder why they look so good,” Office of International Programs director Gene Allen said.

The institute conducted the survey in February and reported that 70 percent of the institutions have seen steady or increasing international enrollment on their campuses during the 2002-03 year.

While most Big Ten universities show steady or increasing enrollment overall, new international student enrollment in fall 2002 declined for at least one other institution.

The University experienced an 18 percent drop in new international students in fall 2002, but the overall number enrolled is only down slightly, said Maggie Catambay, who keeps data for International Student and Scholar Services.

Better retention could be one reason the numbers don’t match up, Catambay said.

Ohio State University had a similar experience, with international enrollment increasing 1 percent overall but new international enrollment decreasing by 14 percent, said Marie Taris, Ohio State director of graduate and international admissions.

“The increase in overall enrollment was the result of improved retention,” Taris said.

Allen said the published international education survey results do not give him much to compare with the University.

“The problem with IIE data is that it represents everybody,” he said. “I’ve tried to do more digging into that data this year, because it’s important how we look in comparison to our peers.”

Allen said he has not heard back from the education institute about unpublished data. In addition, it’s difficult to compare when the institutions surveyed are anonymous, he said.

Even though the University’s international enrollment decreased only slightly overall, it is in a minority among other Big Ten universities.

Based on published data and numbers

provided by admissions directors at other Big Ten universities, the University was the only public Big Ten school that experienced a decline in overall international enrollment.

Several others, including Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois, saw international enrollment increase more than 5 percent this year.

“We’ve been increasing at a healthy rate for a number of years now,” said James Lynch, Penn State’s International Students and Scholars director.

Lynch said even though some schools have seen declining international enrollment, universities will continue to attract international students.

“The work we do can’t be duplicated very easily,” he said. “Even if it’s a hassled process, we’ve still got one hell of a product.”