International students still flocking to UI

Because of changes in foreign travel since the Sept. 11 attacks, visitors to the United States have faced new regulations and restrictions. However, statistics show the percentage of international students at the University has increased over the past eight years.

“For a while right after 9/11 there was a dip in international students coming to the U.S., and depending who you talk to, that could have been for two reasons,” said Kenneth Warren, president of Educational Perspectives, a not-for-profit educational research organization that works with international students. “It may be that the students themselves didn’t want to come to the U.S. or the University may have been wary of admitting international students.”

In the years after Sept. 11, the number of international students studying in the U.S. has increased, according to the Institute of International Education, a not-for-profit that collects data on international students and administers the Fulbright scholarship on behalf of the US Department of State.

“Now there’s more international students here than there was before 9/11,” Warren said.

Since Sept. 11, the federal government has imposed some rules and regulations on international students entering the country on student visas.

“I think students are aware that the visa process is pretty predictable and large numbers are approved each year,” said Peggy Blumenthal, chief operating officer for the Institute of International Education. “That’s not to say that some students may be delayed or denied.”

After Sept. 11, the government tightened up on security and tracking the issuance of student visas, said Julie Misa, director of International Student and Scholar Services at the University.

Jeong Hyun Hwanj, a Parkland student who has been in the country since 2002, said 9/11 affected international students.

“Getting my visa and social security number was slowed down because of 9/11,” she said.

Martin McFarlane, associate director for the International Student and Scholar Services at the University, said that universities use the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which was created in 2003, to track international students. Data specialists within the International Student and Scholar Services at the University generate weekly reports on international students, and every semester registration and course information is reported, McFarlane said.

“Prior to 2003, there was no constant reporting to the government,” McFarlane said. “It just didn’t exist.”

The information gathered about international students is then reported to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, (USCIS).

“If you look at the time frame from late 2001 to the creation of SEVIS in 2003, the timing is not a coincidence,” McFarlane said. “Some of the people implicated in those attacks were here on student visas, but now if students stop attending classes and drop off the map, that information is sent to USCIS.”

Misa said interest for international students to study in the U.S. continues.

“Having students come to the U.S. is a great diplomatic tool,” she said. “If they return to their home country, they take with them a keener appreciation of what it’s like in the states and what it’s like to be a student here.”

Blumenthal said U.S. universities offer the most opportunities for support for international students.

“U.S. universities are still reaching out and have become more proactive in recruiting students since 9/11,” Blumenthal said.

Misa said the government continues to encourage international students to attend U.S. universities.

“The U.S. government is keen on the importance of having international students in the United States,” she added. “They’re doing a pretty good job of balancing security issues with the necessity of have students from different countries come study here.