International student enrollment could fall

CLEVELAND (AP) - Tougher screening and tracking requirements for foreign students have some Ohio college officials worried about a dip in international student enrollment.
"Will we lose people? Yes," said George Burke, director of the Center for International Services at Cleveland State University.
To help with homeland security, the government asked colleges to supply them with detailed records on foreign students by Aug. 1.
The tracking system called SEVIS -- short for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System -- requires that colleges report students' academic majors and employment as well as other personal information.
CSU, which has more than 800 international students and expects 200 to 250 new ones each year, won't know how many faced problems with the new system until after classes begin, Burke said.
The new federal rules also require face-to-face interviews with visa applicants.
Charles Nieman, director of international student services at Kent State University, said that could prove problematic for some.
In some countries, he said, students may have to travel an entire day only to find their interview has been delayed.
Nieman also is concerned that the visa rejections will increase as overworked United States consulate employees struggle to keep pace with the interview requirements.
Kent State, which has more than 800 international students, plans to be as liberal as possible in allowing for late-arriving foreign students, Nieman said.
About 580,000 international students were in the United States during the 2001-02 school year, and more than 19,000 of them were attending Ohio colleges and universities, according to the Institute of International Education.
Edith Berger, director of International Student Services at Case Western Reserve University, said the tracking system is a "noble experiment." But because there wasn't time to fully test SEVIS, questions linger about how it will perform, she said.
Berger said the next big test will come later in the fall when colleges have to confirm that those who entered the country on student visas are actually attending classes.
CWRU, which has more than 1,000 international students, last year had 320 newcomers. This year, Berger said, she will be happy if 280 new foreign students enroll.
Some international students may opt to go to countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where they have to fight through less red tape, Berger said.
David Ayers, director of the Office of International Programs at the University of Akron, which has around 950 international students, has advised returning foreign students not to travel abroad over the summer because they could face problems getting back into the country.
Last year, three Akron international students who went home over the holiday break in December couldn't get visas to return, Ayers said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)