Fewer foreign students in U.S.

By Katie Heinz

The number of foreign students pursuing graduate degrees at universities in the United States has dropped this year, according to a report released last week by the Association of American Universities. This trend has also affected the University.

Cecilio Barrera, associate dean of the Graduate College, said the University has experienced a similar decline. Although the total number of students enrolled in the Graduate College is down nearly 10 percent from last year, Barrera said the decrease was greater for international students.

“We are concerned,” Barrera said. “We hope to reverse this trend by implementing more outreach initiatives, basically.”

Julie Misa, interim director of the Office of International Student Affairs, said it is difficult to know what caused the decline, but it is most likely due to a number of reasons. Stricter visa regulations put into place since Sept. 11, 2001 have made it more difficult for international students to have access to the United States. Misa said there is also increased competition for students at educational institutions in other countries and the image and perception of the U.S. has changed abroad.

But Misa said the international students that are studying at the University are excited to be here.

“The ones who are here are very pleased to be here,” Misa said. “They’re willing to go through the extra hassle to get a visa and come here.”

Although he is concerned, Barrera said the quality of international students applying to the University is high, which is the most important consideration.

Despite the decline, Barrera said the University rates as one of the top schools in terms of total enrollment for international students, ranking sixth in the country for the total number of international students enrolled and second in the Big Ten.

Jie Yao, graduate student in engineering and a native of China, said he transferred to the University after studying for two years in North Carolina. He said he chose to study at the University because of the higher quality of education, but Yao said getting here was not an easy process.

“The procedure was very complicated, very complex,” Yao said. “The language is a problem because the classes are not taught in Chinese but in English, and I have to spend a lot of time on English that’s not necessary for native speakers.”

Yao said his friend, also a native of China, was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania and received an assistantship. But he was not able to enroll because of difficulty obtaining a student visa.

“He was declined when he applied for a visa,” Yao said. “So he didn’t come here, and he was a very smart person.”

Although more than one-third of the Graduate College – approximately 3,400 students – are international, Barrera is concerned that the downward trend will continue. He said he is worried that the University won’t be able to maintain its reputation for research.

“The talent that comes here is extremely important to maintain our position at the top of these fields,” Barrera said.

Barrera said the Graduate College plans to raise interest by engaging with international partner institutions and making the University’s program more visible.