8-23-05 - Declines in international student enrollment appear to be easing off at Oklahoma universities.
"We'll have a better sense by next week, but it seems to me, compared to last fall, we'll have an increase," Millie Audas, director of the Office of International Relations at the University of Oklahoma, said.
International student enrollment began falling in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
If Oklahoma universities turn the tide this fall, they will be ahead of the nation as a whole. The National Council on Graduate Studies predicts further declines in international admissions based on applications for graduate study.
Applications dropped five percent this year after a 28 percent decline in 2004, the council reported. Nearly 60 percent of institutions responding to the councils survey reported application declines.
Oklahoma's two major public universities were not affected immediately when the number of students coming to the United States dropped dramatically in 2002 because of tighter student visa controls.
"I think generally the kids retreated to the interior states because it's a little more protected and usually a little cheaper," Tim Huff, manager of Oklahoma State University's Office of International Students and Scholars, said.
The downward trend caught up with OSU in 2003, and the numbers have dropped every semester since. Huff's goal is to match last year's enrollment, with 2,000 international students.
"We're not through the entire process yet, but I'd say right now we are ballpark close to that and might even be a little above that," Huff said.
Even Oklahoma City University, where international enrollment has dropped 63 percent since Sept. 11, 2001, sees glimmers of improvement.
"I think we're turning the tide," Dennis Dunham, chief international officer for the private university, said.