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USF attracts more foreign students

More USF students are studying abroad while the number of international students at the University has dramatically increased since last year, and a bill pending in the U.S. Congress could boost those numbers even more.

This upswing is in keeping with a national trend highlighted by a report released by the Institute of International Education on Monday.

Florida ranks fifth in the country for international students, with 26,875 enrolled, up 3 percent from last year. USF is ranked 3rd in the state and 72nd nationally for its enrollment of international students, with 1,820 enrolled on campus, an increase of 6.8 percent from last year. Graduate students make up more than half of this number: 57 percent of all international students at USF, according to the Institute.

Marcia Taylor, director of International Services and Affairs at USF, believes this rise is because of improved relations with foreign universities. USF in particular has been taking on a more active, personal role in communicating with international students.

“I think there has been an increased interest in USF in international matters,” she said. “I think that our office especially, but I think the University in general, has tried to change our initial response.”

Because of the confusing nature of immigration, the International Services and Affairs department has designed a new welcome packet to ease students through the process of obtaining a visa and moving to the United States.

The largest portion of international students moving to the United States has come from one of three countries: India, China or the Republic of Korea. Asia remains the largest sending region, accounting for 59 percent of all international students in the U.S.

This increase means larger profits for universities and their local communities. According to the report, international students contribute $678.7 million to the Florida economy through tuition, fees and living expenses.

The number of American students studying abroad has also seen a dramatic increase, up 8 percent from last year.

A piece of legislation called The Simon Study Abroad Initiative, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this summer, could double the amount if passed by the Senate.

The bill would establish a foundation to provide federal scholarships to students who wish to study abroad, as well as set goals to increase the number of students who do so.

Many students are studying abroad because of the growing trend of employers who describe studying abroad as a necessary prerequisite for employment.

The most notable part of the increase in students studying abroad is that more students are studying in non-traditional areas.

While the U.K. remains the top destination for American students, there has been a sharp increase in the number of students studying in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and especially Asia, which saw a 26 percent increase in enrollment from last year.

“There’s definitely been an increase universally in international affairs and international studies,” said Rene Sanchez, a program coordinator with USF’s Study Abroad department. “I think that in recent years, both through economic development, academic development, and of course through our own national security issues, our students have gotten more sensitized to the idea that it’s a global community.”

The data comes from the “Open Doors” report, which is released annually by the Institute of International Education with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Alec Shurtz can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or oracleshurtz@gmail.com