International student enrollment up for first time in five years

GW experienced an increase in international student enrollment this year for the first time in five years.

The fall 2006 census, which was released in late October from the Office of Institutional Research, shows a 1.5 percent increase in international student enrollment this year, which University officials said is promising.

“I think the fact that the numbers decreased does concern people,” said Susan D’Amico, the associate director of International Services, referring to years past. “But the numbers went up a bit (this year) and that is a positive thing.”

According to the census, there are 1,764 on-campus international students, 46 more than 2005. The total undergraduate population is 9,250.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in October that growth in international student enrollment in U.S. universities has been lacking in comparison to the enrollment growth in other countries.

The publication analyzed a report released in October by the American Council on Education, which says that the U.S.’s international student enrollment was up by 17 percent from the 1999-2000 academic year to 2004-5. This is compared with an increase of 29 percent in Britain, 42 percent in Australia, 46 percent in Germany, 81 percent in France and 108 percent in Japan.

D’Amico remarked that one possible reason that international student enrollment slowed in the U.S. was the visa restrictions put in place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The report by the American Council on Education also lists this as a possible reason and says that students from the Middle East are choosing to study in countries other than the United States.

“We do still see significant numbers of students from the Middle East and the interest is still there,” D’Amico said.

The process for international students has been getting easier, she said, and that could account for the rise in international admissions at GW this year.

“The State Department has been very good and improved the process dramatically,” D’Amico said.

Mari Inoue, a returning sophomore from Japan, said that most Japanese students she knows at GW are only in the U.S. because they grew up abroad.

“Most Japanese people who grow up in Japan don’t want to leave the country (for college),” she said. “Why bother learning a new language and making new friends?”

Inoue, who attended a boarding school in the United States, said she only looked at universities in the U.S. and didn’t consider returning to Japan.

She added that most Japanese students at GW only came to school in the U.S. because they had some previous connection to the country. Japan had the highest increase in international students, according to the study.

Unlike Inoue, freshman Melis Hamurculu grew up in Turkey and made the decision to go abroad instead of staying in her home country.

“I always knew that I was coming to the States for university,” Hamurculu said. “I didn’t even attempt to go to university (in Turkey).”

“While choosing my major I wanted to be away from my country and my parents’ influence,” she said, adding that she wanted to come to GW when admissions representatives visited her school in Turkey.

“The fixed tuition helped, but I really liked the idea of switching between all of the different schools here,” Hamurculu added.

D’Amico said GW has no plans to specifically further target international student enrollment any more than what is already in place.

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