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Foreign Student Influx Helps Fills College Classrooms

December 24, 1992

WELLESLEY, Mass. (AP) _ Babson College Registrar Suzanne Gordon starts practicing a month ahead of graduation for her job of calling out the names of students as they pick up their diplomas.

Anupam Bhattachayra. Bhimsen Batra. Abdou Bensouda. Tianguang Du.

This is the sound of commencement at a school whose graduate division is more than one-third foreign.

″I actually rehearse them,″ Gordon said. ″It’s getting harder.″

The number of foreign students at American colleges and universities reached a record 419,585 during the 1991-92 school year, up 3 percent from the year before, the according to the Institute for International Education. The figures are the most recent available.

Students from abroad bring $5.2 billion a year with them into the U.S. economy, according to the Commerce Department.

″American education has to be recognized as the invisible export, which it is,″ said Dixon Johnson, executive director of the Office of International Students and Scholars at the University of Southern California.

Foreign students usually pay full tuition and fill seats left empty by the continuing decline in the number of college-age Americans.

″We’re experiencing the bottom of the baby bust,″ said William Makris, Babson’s director of graduate admissions. ″To meet some of their target enrollment, schools start to look abroad.″

Admissions directors of colleges and, more recently, private boarding schools now routinely go on recruiting junkets overseas.

Many educators say the influx benefits Americans.

″It’s one thing to read a case study about how business functions in Japan,″ said Liz Reisberg, who specializes in recruiting Latin Americans for U.S. universities. ″It’s another thing to have a student from Japan who works for Mitsubishi in the class.″

Naomi Collins, executive director of the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs, said foreign students help colleges fill the gap in such areas as engineering, which ″require a certain critical mass of people in order to justify the equipment and the faculty.″

Foreign students make up less than 3 percent of the total enrollment nationwide but 22 percent at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and more than 15 percent at USC, Stanford and Columbia.

More than half, or 245,810, come from Asia. China sends more students to the United States than any other country, and the number from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union increased 44 percent last year. Five percent of foreign students are from Africa, and 10 percent from Latin America.

About a fifth of foreign students study business, which in 1991-92 displaced engineering as the most popular subject for 35 years straight among international scholars.

″The popularity of the MBA degree perhaps peaked in the United States during the middle to late ’80s and is probably peaking in Europe right now,″ said Ken Hoadley, dean of a management education institute run by the consulting firm Arthur D. Little. Almost 95 percent of its enrollment is from overseas.

Banu Basar, a Turkish student at the Babson graduate school of business, was blunt about why she is studying management in the United States and not Japan or Western Europe.

″We learn why it doesn’t work,″ she said. ″Then we learn solutions.″

Still, business students ″are much more likely to go home and do business with us,″ said Richard Krasno, president of the Institute of International Education. ″Their familiarity with the United States, our products, our culture, far outweighs any competitive advantage they bring home with them.″

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