As the Asian economic crisis heads into its second year, American colleges and universities are beginning to feel its long-term impact. U.S. universities have reason to worry – nine out of the top 10 sources of foreign students are Asian nations, with Canada being the sole non-Asian entrant, according to the International Herald Tribune. Persisting economic chaos has caused many Asian students studying abroad to seek cheaper accommodations, take on part-time jobs, and even transfer to colleges in less expensive countries, according to The New York Times. Increasing numbers of Asian students are finding that currency devaluations, bankruptcies and stock market losses at home are combining to put education in the United States out of reach. This trend is reflected in a recently released study of students who travel abroad, conducted annually by the Institute for International Education. It finds that the United States is still far and away the most popular destination for foreign students (its 1996-97 academic year total of 458,000 was 288,000 more than that of the number two destination, France). However, the total number of foreign students studying in the United States has remained flat, following fifty years of uninterrupted post-World War II growth. Some colleges and universities are adjusting student grants to allow for falling exchange rates, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service is stepping in to loosen work rules for students. But beyond tuition costs, there are living expenses to reckon with. George Washington University, who has over 100 Korean nationals, “allows students to put off payment until at least the end of the semester,” said Ah-Young Kim (SFS ’00), president of the Korean Student Association. According to one Asian student quoted in the George Washington University Hatchet, “Money that was supposed to last four years now lasts only one, because of the currency devaluations.” The exchange rate from Korean to U.S. currency has doubled, therefore doubling tuition fees at colleges, according to Kim. Given the relative expense associated with an American college education, Canada, Latin America, New Zealand and the European Union are all starting to make inroads into traditional American dominance as the study-abroad nation of choice. The share of overall students studying abroad who choose the United States has shrunk from 40 percent five years ago to 32 percent today, according to the U.S. Information Agency. The Asian economic crisis is viewed by many as a factor in the acceleration of this new trend. The full impact of these changes is not yet clear. But the numbers coming from many schools speak for themselves: According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wichita State University lost 220 Asian students last fall, and expects to lose another 100 this fall. The University of Missouri at Columbia has seen an 11-percent drop in its foreign enrollment. Those universities that adapt and begin to look more intensively and in untraditional areas for students will be able to maintain their levels of international enrollment, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Those that don’t may suffer. “Georgetown is not very cooperative,” said Kim. Last year, Georgetown students of the Korean Association met with the International Scholarship Service in an attempt to take some action about their lack of financial aid. But the Scholarship Service said they did not have much “leeway,” according to Kim. “The thing that is hardest is that we cannot register for financial aid or Federal Work Study. The school does not have that many scholarships because we are not U.S. citizens,” said Kim. Asian students themselves are struggling to cope with the recent changes. Joe Gim, president of the George Washington University Korean Students Association thinks that a year after the crisis began, its effects are becoming clear. “It’s setting in that things aren’t getting better quickly. If people thought that before, it’s become pretty clear that it won’t be resolved soon.” Gim added that some students are starting to return home as changing currency rates cause funding for their education to literally disappear overnight. A lot of Korean students at Georgetown do not talk about their possible financial crisis because it is a very sensitive issue. And although GU is very sympathetic about this situation, letters to Father O’Donovan and other attempts to influence change have had no effect, according to Kim.

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