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International student enrollment increases for first time in seven years
By Heather Hillman

International student enrollment at Florida Atlantic University increased for the first time this fall since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, thanks to an increase in student visas issued and the weakening U.S. economy.

“[Enrollment] was definitely down after Sept 11,” said Tania Tucker-Kraus, senior coordinator of academic programs for the Office of International Programs.

Shortly after the attacks, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System was implemented, creating an electronic database that allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to monitor foreign students, their dependents and schools that are sanctioned under the system.

Tucker-Kraus noted that enrollment dropped after the enactment of the monitoring system because students were unable to get visas.

“All universities' [international student enrollment] generally decreased because of the strict rules, from what I understand,” said Marjorie Strachan, FAU's coordinator of International Student & Scholar Services.

The problem has irked higher education administrators for years.

"University presidents have been voicing their collective dismay over restrictive visa policies that were established in the aftermath of 9-11 and the notorious Student and Exchange Visitor Information System,” Luther S. Luedtke, former president of California Lutheran University, said in a article a few years ago in the Ventura County (Calif.) Star.

This fall, despite rising fees for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, FAU saw its first increase in international students in seven years. The current number is 1,106, an increase of 175 students from a year earlier.

“The department has issued a record number of visas to students to study in the United States, exceeding pre-9-11 levels. During fiscal year 2007, the department issued more than 651,000 student and exchange visitor visas - 10 percent more than last year and 90,000 more than were issued in fiscal year 2001,” according to a 2007 press release from the U.S. Department of State.

Tucker-Kraus believes another reason for the sudden increase is the changing currency exchange rate. As the euro grew stronger and the American dollar weakened, international students were able to study in the United States at more affordable costs, Tucker-Kraus said.

NAFSA, the Association of International Educators says it is imperative to continue enrollment increases since international students contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy each year. A statistical analysis by NAFSA shows that international students contributed $14.5 billion from 2006 to 2007.

Currently, international students represent 1 percent of FAU's 26,245 students, according to the admissions office.




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