Report Gives Insight into International Enrollment

Though numbers have been declining since 2002-2003, a downward trend may be ending.

Though India still sends the most students to the United States, there was almost a 5 percent decrease this year, while the number of Korean students increased by over 10 percent.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Kimberly Young, Daily Bruin contributor

THOUGH THE NUMBER of international students enrolled at American universities has been steadily decreasing since the 2002-2003 school year, statistics show that the drop may be leveling off.

UCLA now enrolls the 11th-highest number of international students nationwide, according to the annual Open Doors report published by the Institute of International Education.

With 3,979 international students enrolled at UCLA, there has been a slight decrease from last year, when UCLA enrolled 4,217 international students and placed ninth in the nation.

International enrollment has been steadily decreasing nationwide since the 2002-2003 school year, according to the report. In 2001, there were 582,996 international students in the United States, but by 2006 this number had dropped to 564,766.

Some attributed this decrease to heightened security after Sept. 11, as well as competition from other countries.

"(Recruiting) international students has become competitive as other countries are competing for students," said Bob Ericksen, director of the UCLA Dashew Center for International Students & Scholars. "There are a number of efforts taking place in the U.S. now to promote an increase in international students."

He also noted that there were a record number of student visas issued by the United States this year.

Despite these efforts, some international students said they had difficulty coming to the United States because of increased security measures.

"I lived in Kuwait ... and it was extremely difficult to obtain a visa," said Hiten Mulchandani, a third-year mechanical engineering student.

"A lot of my friends who were planning to come ended up not coming, and I know people who went back for the holidays and they couldn't get a visa to come back into the country again," Mulchandani said.

Other students described similar problems with obtaining a visa. Thomas Lyttelton, a third-year computer science student from England, said he also had difficulty obtaining a visa and coming to the United States.

Ericksen said international students can contribute to a university's global reputation.

"(Having international students) gives a global perspective and is critical for our position as a leading university in the world," Ericksen said.

Maria Turcios, a first-year history student, said she has noticed that effect in her classes.

"I found that taking classes with international students gives me a new perspective on issues and tends to make classes more interesting," Turcios said.

International students also cited benefits in coming to the United States to study.

Lin-Ya Huang, a first-year biology student from Taiwan, said she chose UCLA because of the resources it will provide her to get a better job in the future.

In addition, some students said they decided to attend UCLA in order to reap the benefits of its location.

"I chose UCLA because it is in L.A., the center for film," said Paul Speirs, a second-year film student from South Africa. "(Attending school here) will be beneficial to my career, and I enjoy the country and everyone is so friendly."

International students have financial implications for the school and the national economy as well; international students pay out-of-state tuition, which brings billions of dollars into the American economy every year.

The most popular majors for international students are business and management, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and physical and life sciences, according to the reports.

Asian countries send the highest number of international students. The top-five countries of origin of international students are India, China, Korea, Japan and Canada, according to the report. Though India still sends the most students to the United States, there was almost a 5 percent decrease this year, while the number of Korean students increased by over 10 percent.

Published: Thursday, November 16, 2006