The Disappearance of International Students...

There are two good Op-Eds in the New York Times today regarding the declining numbers of international students at U.S. universities.

Steven Clemons, of the New America Foundation, writes one of them. His argument is that the increase in the fee for a visa application ($100 whether or not you get a visa) is overly burdensome. The editorial as a whole isn't that exciting, but he makes a simple point -- the fee is too high -- and sticks with it. The other piece, by Robert Gates, the President of Texas A&M University, is probably the more ambitious of the two. Gates argues that the difficulty in obtaining visas and the environment of suspicion and surveillance has caused the number of international student applications to drop precipitously. This will have dire consequences on the financial health of many major U.S. universities. It will also devastate many university science and engineering labs, which are mainly staffed by international students (there are far too few American students applying for advanced studies in science and engineering to keep things going). As a result, the rate of scientific innovation at American universities will soon be threatened.

Here is an excerpt from the Clemons piece:

The unfairness is obvious: people should not be charged for something — in this case, a visa to the United States — that they do not receive. And $100 is a huge sum in nations like India, with an annual per capita income estimated at $2,600 in 2002, or even Poland, where it is $9,700.

The State Department says these higher fees — increased from $65 in November 2002 — help pay for the cost of running America's consular service around the world. It's true that heightened security measures adopted in the wake of 9/11 cost more money. But rejected visa applicants should not have to pay for them. It's also true that the higher fees have produced more revenue. But they have discouraged visitors.

From October 2000 to September 2001, 6.3 million people applied to travel to the United States for business, pleasure or medical treatment from developing nations. (These include any nations that do not have a reciprocal visa waiver agreement with the United States.) That number dropped to 3.7 million for the 2003 fiscal year. Applications for student visas fell by almost 100,000 over the same two years.

And here is an excerpt from the Gates:

At 90 percent of American colleges and universities, applications from international students for fall 2004 are down, according to a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools that was released earlier this month. According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, applications from China have fallen by 76 percent, while those from India have dropped by 58 percent. Applications to research universities from prospective international graduate students are down by at least 25 percent overall; here at Texas A&M, international student applications have fallen by 38 percent from last year.

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