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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Growth in international students at NMSU bucks national trend

Enrollment of international students at New Mexico State University increased by 6 percent this fall, bucking a national trend that shows foreign student enrollment down at many universities and virtually stagnant overall.


Egginton, NMSU's vice provost for international and U.S.-Mexico border programs, said 762 international students are enrolled at New Mexico State this fall, up from 719 last fall.

The number of new international students who enrolled this fall increased by nearly 22 percent, from 174 last year to 212 this year.

Nationally, the number of foreign students studying in the United States grew by less than 1 percent, following a five-year average annual growth rate of 5 percent, according to a study by the Institute of International Education. The trend has been attributed to new federal security measures that have complicated the visa process for international students, causing many to seek alternatives in Canada and other nations.

Egginton said a number of factors have enabled New Mexico State to increase its international student population despite the new regulations.

"Word of mouth is one reason," he said. "Once international students get here they like it a lot, because they find a warm, embracing, welcoming community and they are very well treated. When they return home, they speak well of us and they send their families here."

In addition, the university's international programs staff works hard to process visa documentation quickly for international applicants, Egginton said. This is important because the U.S. State Department now requires every foreign applicant to have a face-to-face interview at a U.S. Consulate before being issued a visa, and the interview cannot take place until the university has completed visa documentation for the student.

"I tip my hat to Mary Jaspers (international student adviser) and her staff," Egginton said. "They are under tremendous pressure because of the new restrictions and the requirements of the new Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (a computerized tracking system known as SEVIS)."

Foreign exchange programs also help to build the university's international enrollment, he said. In addition to about two dozen one-to-one exchange agreements with foreign universities, NMSU is the biggest participant in the International Student Exchange Program, which facilitates student exchanges for about 150 colleges and universities.

"About 30 of our students go abroad for a semester every year and about 30 students from Asia, Latin America, Europe and elsewhere come here in exchange," Egginton said. "We find that some of them like it here and stay, and others go back home but return later to complete their education."

The Internet is the biggest source of information for international students considering studying in the United States, so the prominence of international programs information on NMSU's Web site is helpful in establishing initial contacts with potential students, he said.

All these factors help the university build international student enrollment, said Ida Baca, associate director of international programs. "All kinds of things have to come together for them to show up at our doorstep," she said.

Students from about 80 countries are enrolled at New Mexico State, with the largest number -- 176 -- coming from Mexico, Baca said.

"India is a close second, with 169 students, and China is third, with 79," she said.

NMSU's total enrollment at the main campus this semester is 16,174.

Nationally, the Institute for International Education reported this week that foreign student enrollment in the United States increased by only 0.6 percent from last year, the lowest growth rate in seven years. In each of the two previous academic years, foreign enrollment had increased by 6.4 percent, according to the institute's annual "Open Doors" survey.