International admissions at universities throughout the United States declined in the 2002-03 academic school year, says a recent CNN report. It cites tightened visa restrictions after 9-11 by the Institute of International Education as a primary reason for the decrease.
According to Mark Reid, director of International Admissions, there is always potential for the trend to reach UM. Thus far, undergraduate international enrollment this academic year is ahead of last year’s. Graduate enrollment has, however, taken a hit.
UM ranks in the top 50 schools in the country for international enrollments; 110 countries are represented on campus.
According to administration, the incentives that draw international students to UM include the option of a double major, exceptional financial assistance and – yes – favorable location and weather.
“Weather is a huge factor,” Reid said. “We have a huge number of transfer students in the winter months, especially in January.”
The largest international enrollment – about 35 percent – comes from Latin America, mainly because of UM’s proximity to the region. Students often arrive in Miami during times of political or economic turmoil.
“In 2002, and less so in 2003, there was an exodus from Venezuela because of the political situation,” Reid said. “Virtually overnight we had an increase in Venezuelan enrollment.”
UM has been ranked in the top 10 percent by a number of academic journals for the number and type of scholarships offers to undergraduate students. Graduate students can expect assistantships, stipends and fellowships.
However, Ashish Thani, a freshman from Barbados, said that he qualified for a scholarship but did not receive the money he had expected.
Reid said the number of students qualifying for scholarships outnumbers funds available. Federal and state money is restricted to domestic students. Therefore, UM must draw from its own limited funds for international students, which is why they tend to receive fewer scholarships.
UM publicizes globally by sending representatives to 65 cities, as well as by sponsoring school counselors from countries including Kuwait, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Antigua to visit UM to learn more about the University.
Reid says he has not been to any country so far where UM is unheard of, and he said that the school is particularly recognized for its marine science program and medical school.
Several factors indicate how the overall national decrease in international enrollments could affect UM.
According to UM administration, the University is becoming increasingly selective in accepting students, which has an effect on the number of international students who matriculate at UM.
Also, Reid said that the new visa restrictions tend to affect students who want to major in fields deemed “sensitive” by the Department of Homeland Security.
Because of 9-11, male Muslims must now wait longer than before to get visas to travel to the U.S., often delaying their arrival before classes begin.
Visa officers do not generally accept students if they do not express the desire to continue their studies beyond the undergraduate level. Also, international students must confirm their ties to their native country and display that they will return upon completion of their studies.
Reid cited preconceived notions – especially of parents – about UM that may hinder them from sending their sons and daughters to the school.
Nikki Aggarwal, a sophomore from Tanzania, came to UM after carefully researching the University and comparing it with other schools.
“People think of Miami as a party school, but I knew it wasn’t as bad they made it seem,” Aggarwal said.
Reid feels that international students are an asset to UM because they provide local students with a different perspective in the classroom setting. Also, they may spur domestic students to take study abroad sessions, which is a goal of the UM faculty.
For more information, contact Mark Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Office of International Admissions in Merrick 214.
Reeva Oza can be contacted at email@example.com.