Enrollment by foreign students at American universities has leveled off after steadily increasing and may be on the decline because of stricter legislation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to a survey released last week.

The survey, the first documenting a full academic year since Sept. 11 and the war on terrorism, noted a decrease in the number of students coming from Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Daniel Gourvitch/The Hoya

Educators pointed to stricter visa application processes and economic factors as decreasing enrollment. Since Sept. 11, most international students have had to undergo individual screenings, resulting in what some Georgetown students have called long lines and administrative headaches.

Brazilian student Tasso Araripe (SFS ’05) said he waited two weeks to renew his visa at the consulate this summer, a process that has taken 5-10 days in the past. He missed an orientation retreat because of the wait.

“I’ve been studying for seven years and I’ve noticed now they are asking more questions to renew visas,” he said. “The paperwork is a lot worse and it’s a hassle.”

But educators added that in many cases, the perception of possible problems with new visa application procedures may have had a stronger impact on students than the actual visa process.

Although this year fewer schools have experienced increased international enrollment, more than half of the schools surveyed still reported overall increased enrollment – with India seeing an increase of 12 percent, making it the leading country of origin for foreign students.

“America is a welcoming nation and keeping our doors open to men and women of good will from every part of the globe is vital to mutual understanding of our own well-being,” Patricia Harrison, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said in the study. The report was released by the State Department and the Institute of International Education.

Georgetown also saw an increase of about 6 percent in international student enrollment from 2002 to 2003.

The reason, according to Katherine Bellows, assistant dean and university director of international student and scholarship services, is partly Georgetown’s international reputation.

“Georgetown falls into an arena of schools like Williams, Duke, Yale and other Ivy Leagues that are esteemed even by international students,” Bellows, assistant dean of International Students and Scholar Services said. “We’re always going to have a high number of applicants because students are always going to want to go to good schools like Georgetown.”

Georgetown’s lack of majors like engineering and biochemistry – that could be seen as threatening to national security – may also have kept student enrollment high.

At George Washington University, for instance, the English as a Foreign Language program folded this year due to lack of enrollment.

Meanwhile, foreign students are looking elsewhere – to Australian and British universities that offer English language immersion minus the legislative hassles.

But that also means they’re taking their money with them – $13 billion to be exact, contributed to the national economy last year in tuition and living expenses. Georgetown’s 1,500 foreign students contribute about $21 million annually in tuition and expenses.

Still, foreign students only make up about two percent of the non-immigrant population, which Bellows notes is not a significant amount.

“The number of foreigners who come in on tourist visas every year is in the millions.” But since the tourism industry surpasses higher education in size and finances, students have experienced the brunt of the crack down.

“The government wants the public to know they’re doing everything to ensure national security and student visas are the easiest way to get the message across,” she said.

Initial interest in international students was provoked when legislators found that Mohammed Atta – one of the Sept. 11 hijackers – was trained in Florida using a student visa.

Then, when investigators found later that year that the head of Iraqi Nuclear Engineering Program received his Ph.D. in California and that his I-20 forms were also issued there, legislators began proposing re-vamped regulations. The I-20 form is a certificate of eligibility for foreign students with non-immigrant status.

Still, some educators continue to question the new legislation’s effectiveness, especially since no potential terrorists have been caught. Legislators announced this year that 192 foreigners attempting to enter as students without proper paperwork were apprehended in August. But, Bellows said, none were proven to have had ties to terrorism.

“As far as I know, there’s no concrete indication that since these measures have been taken, the threat of terrorism has decreased,” she said.

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