America losing Its Appeal to International Students

by Staff

Foreign enrollment in U.S. universities is decreasing By Kelli Enger, ContributorA recent USA Today report found U.S. graduate schoolsexperienced a 28-percent decline in applications from internationalstudents and an 18-percent decrease in admissions in the last yearalone.

This downturn in international applications and enrollments toAmerican universities is the result of many issues foreign studentsface.

A major issue is stricter visa requirements after Sept. 11.Prior to this date, obtaining a visa was relatively easy; the processcan now take months and is not always successful.

Operational barriers include obtaining an appointment with theAmerican Consulate, a rigorous interview process and months-long FBIbackground checks. Only after this will the FBI discuss with theAmerican Consulate whether to grant the applicant the visa.

San Diego State computer science junior Medhi Houari recentlyunderwent this process while renewing his visa in June. A resident ofMorocco, a country on the United States’ list of dangerous nations,he said the procedure was especially frustrating.

“I feel like the only Arab here on campus,” he said. “The U.S.is progressively denying more and more visas from Arab countries.”

Ron Moffatt, director of the International Student Center, saidthe decline in interest from international students to study abroadin the United States is also because of a strengthening in othernations’ recruitment programs.

“The United States is not competing in the global market placefor these students,” he said. “We are experiencing a loss in ourmarket share.”

While the United States still remains the world’s internationaleducation leader, nations such as Canada and Britain are kicking moreintensive recruitment programs into gear.

Also, some countries are becoming more appealing to theircitizens seeking higher education because their own educationalinstitutions have strengthened.

For instance, USA Today reports that study abroad applicationsfrom China, one of the main suppliers of international students,dropped 45 percent since last year.

Moffatt said this is potentially because Chinese students feelthey could receive a better education in China. This would prevent astudent from returning home from the United States with the stigma ofbeing “Westernized.”

Perceptual obstacles are another deterrent for internationalstudents, Moffatt said. Since the war on terrorism began, foreignerssense America to be less welcoming than before. Fear of mistreatmentand discrimination are keeping some students away from our shores.

“After 9-11, our welcome mat was tattered and tarnished,” hesaid.

Houari said he’s not frightened as an Arab student abroad inthe United States. He has lived in the United States for three years,and his brothers also live abroad in various parts of the country.

“I am not scared of being here,” he said. “I want to be here.The U.S. has a really good college system.”

Along with the fear of mistreatment comes the hassle of notbeing able to travel with ease.

Biochemistry senior David Almeida is originally from Colombia andhas been in the United States for eight years.

“It used to be much easier to be a student before 9-11,” hesaid. “Now, every time I try to cross the border, I get held up fortwo to three hours while border patrol checks my status. It is veryfrustrating.”

The declining rates of international students studying in ourcountry are staggering, yet SDSU doesn’t seem to be affected,according to Steven Sacco, chair of international business. Theinternational programs here continue to attract more students everyyear.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the number of Americanstudents going abroad from SDSU is flourishing.

The SDSU international business major requires students tostudy abroad and was the first in the nation to do so. Annually, theprogram sends 150 students, which is the most of any business programin the United States. SDSU participates in 198 international programsin 48 countries.

Sacco explains the program is based on exchange.

“If we send five students from SDSU to a university in France,we get five French students from that university here,” he said.

The war on terrorism seems to have little effect on a student’schoice to leave the country. In fact, SDSU has had a 380-percentincrease in five years of students studying abroad.

“We’ve never had a student being worried about study abroad dueto terror,” Sacco said. “Our parents of students in Cuba are moreworried about hurricanes than terrorism.”

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