Grad Schools Seek More International Students

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) has released its 2007 International Graduate Admissions Survey Phase I: Applications, which explores the changes in the number of international students applying to American graduate schools. Since the events of September 11, 2001, the number of international students enrolling in master's and doctoral programs in the United States has significantly decreased.

The Council of Graduate Schools surveyed 468 American colleges and universities and tracked enrollment by country of origin and field of study. The survey also examined application numbers in relation to the size of schools' international student population.

In the past few years, applications have picked up at a slow rate, and while that is a step in the right direction, it is not enough. Between 2006 and 2007, international student applications to U.S. institutions saw a 12 percent increase, compared with the five percent decline in 2005. However, international applications have not increased enough to reach pre-September 11 numbers.

Seventy percent of American graduate institutions have fewer international graduate applicants than they did in 2003. The number of applicants fell 27 percent during that four-year span. Applications for student visas, which serve as early indicators of international student applications, have also declined.

The two most important reasons for the decline in international applications are (1) a more globally competitive graduate education system and (2) tougher U.S. restrictions on international student visas post-September 11. More foreign countries have strengthened their graduate programs, attracting students away from the United States. The global competition for international students is at an all-time high. Graduate programs in other countries have been producing leading research.

Since the terror attacks of September 11, the United States has implemented stricter security and entrance policies that make it difficult for international students to gain access to U.S. graduate schools. Some students are also forced to get a visa each time they go home to visit their families. As a result, international students studying in the United States are likely to feel they are being watched by the government.

The annual number of academic study visas provided by the U.S. State Department to current and prospective international students decreased by 10 percent between 2001 and 2005. Five years prior to September 11, 2001, these visas increased annually by 11 percent.

Between 2006 and 2007, 53 percent of all international graduate students who attend American institutions are natives of China, India and Korea. Applicants from India rose only 6 percent, while applicants from Korea decreased 2 percent. The number of Chinese applicants to U.S. schools remained nearly the same, and applications from the Middle East were up by nine percent.

The fields of business, engineering, social sciences, physical sciences and life sciences have attracted the most international students for years. In 2007 these fields accounted for 73 percent of international graduate applications to American institutions. Engineering applications grew 8 percent.

International graduate applications for business programs increased by seven percent in 2007, while they had increased by 16 percent the year before. Applications for physical and earth science graduate programs rose by eight percent. No growth was reported for the field of social sciences.

The study fields with smaller international graduate application numbers were the ones to see significant growth between 2006 and 2007. Education applications were up by eight percent. Arts and humanities applications rose 12 percent, while applications for life sciences and agriculture graduate programs increased by 13 percent.

American colleges and universities with the largest international student enrollment saw the biggest increases in international graduate applications. The 10 institutions with the largest international student populations experienced a 13 percent increase in applications in 2007. The 50 institutions with the largest international graduate student populations enjoyed an increase of 10 percent in applications for 2007. Institutions with smaller international student populations saw increases in applications of just five percent.

Applications from Indian students increased 22 percent at the 10 institutions with the largest international graduate student populations, while decreasing by eight percent at the other, smaller institutions. Business and education program applications increased by 21 percent at the 10 institutions with the largest international graduate student populations. The applications for these programs fell by 8 percent at the smaller institutions.

The CGS survey reports that the small increases of 2007 could point to a temporary lag in international graduate applications. The recent increases are not enough to get back to where the levels were before September 11, 2001. Depending on your particular opinion on this subject, this could seriously impact the future of our country.


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