International graduate student enrollment in U.S. universities declined after the Sept. 11 attacks but is rising again at AU and across the country.
According to a study by the Council of Graduate Schools, foreign student enrollment in master’s and doctoral education programs in U.S. universities grew by 1 percent in 2006. This growth, though small, is a reversal in a four-year trend of declining international enrollment, according to the study.
International graduate enrollment at AU grew this year, according to Lori Cardosa, immigration specialist at AU, although the numbers fluctuate among the academic programs.
Several major universities reported declines in their international student enrollment after the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2005, the University of Colorado at Boulder experienced a 6 percent drop in international student enrollment from the previous year, according to the Denver Post.
A 2005 Financial Times article reported that the decline in graduate student applications was the result of tough visa restrictions that the State Department imposed after one of the highjackers in the Sept. 11 attacks entered the country with a student visa.
Cardosa said this impression is false. The visa application process has “really gotten better,” said Cardosa, who works in AU’s office of International Student and Scholar Services.
AU has over 1,000 international students and scholars from over 100 countries, according to the ISSS Web site. These international students improve the academic environment at AU by bringing a global perspective, Cardosa said.
Sharon Alston, director of admissions, said AU has seen some decreases in international student enrollment in undergraduate programs.
Alston said she does not attribute the decline in enrollment to more rigid visa requirements but “to the fact that other countries have expanded their recruitment and outreach to international students, thereby expanding the overseas options available for study.”
In the School of Communication, 15 percent of graduate applicants in 2006 were international students, according to Irene Moyer, director of SOC’s graduate admissions. This was up from 11 percent in 2005.
International students who work at the office of International Student and Scholar Services said students are often confused about the visa application process.
“A lot of students are not exactly sure how the process really works,” said Abdul Aziz Jalloh, a graduate student in AU’s computer science department.
ISSS helps students to understand what they need to do to comply with the government’s requirements, he said.
Jalloh first studied in the United States as an undergraduate at Haverford College in Pennsylvania in 1998. The visa application process “was a lot less demanding,” he said. Jalloh said the process became more difficult in 1999, even before the Sept. 11 attacks. He reapplied from Saudi Arabia in 1999.
“That’s when it really started becoming rigorous,” he said.
Nona Rogova, a first-year graduate student in the School of International Service from the Republic of Georgia, said when she tried to get her student visa, all the students trying to were turned away from the U.S. embassy in Georgia because they did not have detailed financial statements. Rogova applied for visas to the U.S. before and 2006 was the first time she had any problems, she said.
“It was a hassle for me,” she said. “No one knew that they needed this information.”