The United States needs to do a better job of recruiting foreign students to American colleges and universities. That's the assessment of a nonprofit group that tracks educational exchange programs. The International Institute of Education says while growing numbers of U.S. students are studying abroad, fewer international students are coming to America.
The nonprofit group, Institute of International Education, says foreign students are still wary of studying in the United States because they think it is too difficult to meet visa requirements. Vice president of the group, Peggy Blumenthal, says more work is needed improve this image.
"There was a low period right after September 11th," she said. "We're seeing the new enrollment starting to pick up again, but we need to keep working at it, because American universities have to get the message out very strongly that we do welcome international students and the State Department's improved visa regulations and visa processing have not really sunk into the consciousness of a lot of students."
The group's study shows that about 565,000 students enrolled in U.S. colleges last year. That's one percent less than the year before. Ms. Blumenthal says reaching out more to foreign students could help stop the decline in enrollment.
"I think it's an information campaign we have to do and we also have to keep reaching out to international students and letting them know that they are welcome," she added.
Based on a survey of the 2003-2004 school year, the number of U.S. students enrolled in foreign universities grew 9.6 percent from the previous year. A total of 191,000 Americans studied abroad in that school year.
The Institute of International Education says Europe is the top choice for American students going overseas, attracting 61 percent of the students.
India is the number one country for sending students abroad, followed in order by China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Canada.
Ms. Blumenthal says encouraging students to go abroad is important because the economy is becoming global.
"Many international students are better prepared in a way to participate internationally in the economy, because they have had the experience of working in another culture and studying another culture. So a large priority in our work is getting Americans off our shores and on to others," she explained.
The New York-based Institute of International Education published the findings in its annual report, called Open Doors 2005, with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.