Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Nov 30, 2004
Industry & Economy
Fewer foreign students in Washington DC varsities
Washington , Nov. 29
THERE has been a 10 per cent drop in the number of foreign students attending colleges and universities in Washington D.C. which is very much in line with a study that shows a nationwide decrease in foreign student enrolment for the first time in three decades.
Much of the blame, according to a report in The Washington Post, has to do with the tightened visa procedure; but there are other factors as well a perception by foreign students that somehow the US is less welcoming, the rising global competition with other English-speaking countries offering comparable facilities and rising tuition costs.
The Washington DC area, which includes Virginia and Maryland, has the fourth largest concentration of foreign students in the US, accounting for some 19,552 students in all.
And perhaps, with the exception of Georgetown University that has shown an 8 per cent rise in foreign student enrollment, there has been a general decline elsewhere with American University taking the biggest hit with a 40 per cent decline in enrollment since September 11, 2001.
Some law makers not necessarily conservative hardliners are quite unapologetic about the changes that have been brought about in the visa system and in the procedural aspects of continuing to stay on the student visa. The argument has been that the changes are necessary in the security interest of the country after all, the argument goes, one of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001 came to this country on a student visa but never attended school.
For educationists who are concerned at the declining enrolment, there is a broader dimension to foreign students not coming to the US the loss of an international perspective which is neither in the best interests of the campuses or Washington DC as a whole. There is also the "loss" to the US in that many of the foreign student graduates are of a science and engineering background and tend to stay after graduation.
And there is an economic factor as well undergraduates and those graduate students without financial assistance pay the full out of state tuition costs. Further the estimate has been that in the Washington DC area the foreign students fork out some $230 million annually on just about anything non-campus and tuition-related, say, from rent to food.
What has been especially taken note of in this country is that visas are a problem when it comes to graduate studies (Masters and Doctoral) and in specific disciplines in the realm of science and technology. The President of the University of Maryland recently told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of how five students from China from a top science and technology school were "lost" because of visa delays and security checks.
"They have made other plans and are lost to the US," remarked Mr C.D. Mote Jr. "Once the pipeline closes, it dries up completely. Those five students from China will tell others coming along not to bother applying here," he added. But the State Department maintains that it is quite aware of the implications of the fall in foreign student enrolment and has been making the point that special instructions have been issued to the diplomatic posts to give priority to student visas.
Statistics have it that nationally, 572,509 foreign students are enrolled in American universities and colleges including community colleges in 2003-2004; but this is a 2.4 per cent decline from the previous year; and figures for graduate schools show a drop of 28 per cent for this current year.
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