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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Enrollment of foreign students at New Mexico State increasing

New Mexico State University is bucking the national trend when it comes to enrollment of international students.

he number of foreign students on U.S. campuses declined by 2.4 percent last year, according to the recently released "Open Doors" report by the Institute of International Education, enrollment of international students at NMSU continues to increase.

Mary Jaspers, assistant director in the international students programs, said 767 international students are enrolled at NMSU this year, up from 764 last year. Of those 167 are newly enrolled.

The majority of foreign students are enrolled in the graduate school, 506 this year compared with 500 in 2003-04.

Students from 73 countries attend New Mexico State. The largest groups, with 177 students each, come from Mexico and India. That tracks somewhat with the national trend showing India as the leading place of origin for international students elsewhere in the country.

The nationwide decline in 2003-04 is the "first absolute decline in foreign enrollments since 1971-72," according to "Open Doors." It attributes the downward turn to a number of factors including the stricter visa requirements and limitations imposed on foreign students because of heightened national security.

Jaspers agreed there are more problems with students receiving visas, more limitations on how early a student may apply and more lengthy background checks depending on the field of study a student wishes to follow.

But while some educators reportedly have noted fear among potential students that visas for study in the United States are impossible to obtain, Jaspers said, "We don't hear too much about that from our students.

"They are more concerned about the length of time it will take, not that they will be denied," she said.

Because of the university's outreach, including its information on the Internet, students applying to NMSU are knowledgeable about programs and are becoming savvy about the enrollment process. At the same time, the graduate school advertises its programs in four worldwide publications.

There is strong department support for the international students, and the students in the program are vocal about recommending the university program to others, Jaspers said.

Not only do foreign students bring diversity to a campus, she said, they also are students with excellent backgrounds.

"In terms of their financial impact nationwide, it's incredible," Jaspers said.

According to "Open Doors," international students pump about $13 billion into the national economy. About 75 percent of that comes from sources outside the United States.