NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 13, 2006

Although there are more than 500,000 foreign students in U.S. universities, foreign enrollment in U.S. universities has dropped more than 3 percent since the 2001-02 academic year, according to data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE), a New York-based non-profit group.

While IIE expects the numbers to level off as some of the post 9/11 visa backlogs clear, Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president of IIE, does see changes in the nature of higher education, including:

  • Developing nations such as China and Indonesia keeping many of their best students at home.
  • Australia and others developing strong distance-learning programs via the Internet.
  • Germany aggressively recruiting overseas, bringing in large numbers of international students.

In addition, European and West Asian countries are increasingly working together to streamline and accredit degree programs, teach more classes in English, and allow credits to be transferred across borders.

The consequences in America are serious enough to lead President Bush to call for increased federal spending on language training, the recruitment of foreign language experts to teach in the United States, and a streamlining of immigration regulations to allow international students easier access to U.S. universities.

Attracting foreign students is crucial at a time when public opinion polls show that many dislike U.S. foreign policies. President Bush notes how studying in the United States can impact this opinion, "It makes it so much easier to conduct foreign policy and diplomacy when you've got that common ground."

Source: Mary Beth Marklein and Barbara Slavin "USA losing its advantage drawing foreign students" USA Today, January 6, 2005


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