ANNAPOLIS International student-exchange programs at Maryland colleges have been largely unaffected so far by anthrax scares and the September 11 attacks, college officials said.
Almost 20,000 students from other countries attend college in Maryland, arriving here with student visas.
Arlene Wergin, director of international education services at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said the college enrolled 976 foreign students this fall.
“Less than half a dozen have gone home,” she said. “I was expecting more problems.”
Rebecca Mihelcic of Howard Community College said some foreign students were under heavy pressure from parents to return home shortly after the attacks, but almost all stayed in Maryland.
“That pressure probably has lessened just a bit,” she said.
Ms. Mihelcic was worried the college might have trouble finding students who wanted to go to Mexico for an exchange program this winter. But 18 persons signed up, two more than last year and the most in the three-year history of the program.
Members of the Maryland International Education Association met Thursday in Annapolis to discuss the impact of the anti-terrorism war on student-exchange programs.
Marlene Johnson, executive director of the Association of International Educators, offered a national perspective on the exchange issue.
She said there is nothing to indicate students are leaving in significant numbers, but isn’t sure what will happen in the 2002-2003 school year.
“Most decisions by students won’t be made until after Thanksgiving or the first of the year,” she said.
Ms. Johnson told the Maryland group that the national organization is closely monitoring congressional deliberations on bills dealing with foreign students. She believes a bill introduced by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, is an acceptable plan to keep track of foreigners who enter the country on student visas.
Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Brownback proposed that the Immigration and Naturalization Service notify schools when a student enters the country. Schools would then update the INS if the student did not show up within 15 days of the first day of class.
The importance of international-exchange programs is demonstrated by the current war on terrorism, she said. Many of the leaders of the countries involved in the coalition put together by President Bush were educated in the United States.
“They are people who understand our system. They understand our economy,” Ms. Johnson said. “That is something we must continue to invest in.”