- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

September 11 and stiffer background checks for visas have not hampered the exchange of students, with more American college youths attending schools overseas while a record number of their counterparts worldwide rush to get an education in the United States, according to a new study released this week.
A record 582,996 international students enrolled at American colleges in the past school year, up 6.4 percent from last year, according to the Open Doors 2002 study compiled by the Institute of International Education in New York.
Meanwhile, the study showed that American students choosing to study abroad more than doubled in the past decade, from 71,154 students in the 1991-1992 academic year to 154,168 last year. Last year's figures are up 7.4 percent from the previous year.
"Some feared that in the wake of September 11 young Americans would shrink from international experiences and pursue only domestic options," said Patricia Harrison, the State Department's assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs, which funded the study.
"But as the numbers show, more students are studying abroad than ever before, a sign that young Americans clearly recognize the crucial role they will play in leading our nation into a world even more connected than it is today," Miss Harrison said.
For American students, Europe was the most popular spot to study, claiming six of the top 10 countries. Of those, England was first choice, hosting 30,289 students last year. Italy came in second with 16,127 and Spain followed with 16,016.
Of the top 10 countries, students' interest declined in France and China, both by less than 1 percent. Students' interest in the Middle East declined by about 60 percent, the study showed.
"Despite efforts by terrorists to isolate America from the rest of the world, the response by American students and American campuses is to become more intensely engaged in international affairs and to seek out more opportunities for firsthand interaction with other cultures and other countries," said Alan Goodman, the institute's president.
For international students, the most popular destinations in the United States last year were California, with 78,741, and New York, with 62,053. The University of Southern California hosted the most international students, with 5,950.
Locally, Virginia hosted 12,600 foreign students, Maryland took 13,947 and the District 9,241, according to the study. Northern Virginia Community College at Annandale campus and the University of Maryland at College Park hosted the most international students in their respective states. George Washington University hosted the most international students in the District.
The largest percentage of international students came from India, with 66,836 students. China sent 63,211 students.
U.S. education officials were encouraged by the high numbers.
"The question [for international students] is, 'Do you want to stay home or do you want to come abroad?' Once they have made that decision, the U.S. is still the most attractive option," said Peggy Blumenthal, the institute's vice president for educational services.
It will not be known until next year whether the number of Middle Eastern students studying in the United States has fallen this school year.
The government began more stringent background checks of many students coming from Middle Eastern countries because several of the September 11 terrorists were found to have been in the United States on student visas.
Despite the delays in acquiring student visas, "it's clear that overall there are still so many students who want to come to the United States that the numbers are staying steady," Miss Blumenthal said.
The study also showed international students contributed about $11.95 billion to the country's economy in 2001-2002.
Virginia's international students contributed $261 million to the state's economy and Maryland's students $295 million. The District's international students contributed $231 million, the study showed.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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