The word “diversity” is often
thrown around campus as an important priority, and while many
institutions have changed their application process in order to
promote racial diversity, diversity of origin that is also in dire
need of attention. The decline of applications from international
students at the University of Michigan, along with Eastern Michigan
University, should be of the utmost concern to both institutions
and the surrounding communities.

Beth Dykstra

While the University actually increased its international
student enrollment by 0.8 percent this year, applications were down
overall. According to the Ann Arbor News, Rackham Graduate School,
which receives a great proportion of international enrollment, had
a 27 percent decrease in applications from just last year. Eastern
Michigan is experiencing an even greater problem — not only
is its number of international applications declining, but
international enrollment dropped 14 percent from last year and 33
percent since its peak in 2001. Relative to Eastern Michigan, with
a much larger applicant pool to begin with, the University has to
been able to offset the decline in applications.

Given the immense contributions that foreign students make to
the educational communities, this trend demands immediate
attention. Whether as educators or students, foreign students bring
a cornucopia of perspectives, unique backgrounds and innovative
ideas to the table — attributes the student body cannot
afford to lose.

International students and educators also provide a great
resource to companies and research institutions in the area. Even
after they finish their time at the University, their talents are
well received and economically valuable.

The road to fixing this problem is not simple. Lengthy and
difficult visa processes, especially for Chinese and Indian
students, discourage foreigners from applying. While foreign policy
is by no means malleable, there is still more that can be done to
encourage interest from abroad. The University is exploring hiring
an immigration lawyer to ease the process. This is a commendable
suggestion and should be implemented. By establishing more
assistance outlets for international students, legal counsel would
deliver the message that the University values and desires their
attendance.

Courtney McAnuff, Eastern Michigan’s vice president of
enrollment services, went so far as to travel to Shanghai and lobby
the U.S. embassy to alleviate the difficult visa process. Though
she was not received with great interest, her efforts on behalf of
Eastern Michigan are laudable nonetheless.

It is promising that both universities have recognized what a
loss in international interest represents, and their ensuing
actions have been encouraging. It is inevitable that relations will
change between the United States and the global community, but
students must not suffer the consequences. All members of the
University should recognize what intellectual assets international
students provide and devote their attention and resources
accordingly.

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