Monday, November 13, 2006

Reversal in the decline of foreign students in the US

This can only be good news:
The number of new foreign students coming to the United States grew this school year, after several years of weakness that followed the terrorist attacks of 2001, according to a survey to be released today by the Institute of International Education. [..]

According to the survey, conducted by the institute and other education groups, the number of new international students at American colleges and universities increased 8 percent this fall over last, to 142,923.

Another sign of a turnaround was a sharp upturn in student visas, said Allan E. Goodman, president of the institute. Dr. Goodman said the State Department issued a record 591,050 student and exchange visas in the 12 months ending in September, a 14 percent increase over the previous year and 6 percent more than in the year leading up to the 2001 attacks.

It's not that admitting more foreign students is a good thing in and of itself; it's more that this is a useful indicator of how competitive the US is in the marketplace of "idea generation"; for decades, the US had a monopoly on the "idea factories", and in recent years, there's been growing competition from the rest of the world (especially from China), capitalizing on the panic and overreaction following 9/11.

Update (11/17): On the other hand, there's this:
The latest IEE Open Doors report finds that the number of international students enrolled in computer and information science programs in the U.S. declined in academic year 2005/2006, as it has each year since 2002/2003. This occurred even as the number of new foreign students in all programs increased between the Fall of 2004 and 2005 and as total enrollment of foreign students stabilized.
It may not be surprising that foreign student enrollment in CIS has dropped. After all, there's a national trend of dropping enrollment in computer science. The question is whether this drop is more than the overall national trends, and how different the undergraduate/graduate enrollment statistics are.


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