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International graduate student rate declines at BU, despite study

A new report by the Council of Graduate Schools found that international-student enrollment in American graduate school programs has increased in the last year, but officials said international student enrollment at Boston University has actually decreased.

Rebekah Alexander, assistant director of admissions and financial aid at BU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said the program has seen a decline in international student enrollment and a negligible change in domestic student enrollment due to different circumstances, one of them being fewer applications received.

“We admitted fewer people into the Ph.D. program because of different factors, including trying to make it more competitive,” she said. “… We [also] changed the funding model for this year so that every single Ph.D. student that was admitted is fully funded, and that is different from previous years. So, we actually admitted fewer, more qualified people.”

Alexander said about 40 percent of applications received by GRS are from international students, but that a student’s citizenship is not a factor in the application process.

“It doesn’t necessarily play into if we accept them [international students] or not, but it does play into whether they are able to get here,” Alexander said. “We do our admissions based on the spaces that we have in our program and who is the best qualified, regardless of their citizenships.”

Alexander said international students who might want to work in the U.S. after graduating may face limitations due to immigration laws.

“When we want to bring those people in, if immigration provides any sort of limitations for this particular student, we certainly work with them and try to provide as much information and support and help as we can to get them into the United States,” Alexander said.

The number of international students in U.S. graduate programs increased by 8 percent from the fall 2011 to fall 2012, according to a Saturday press release by CGS. However, first-time enrollments of domestic students in science and math related fields either remained the same or decreased from previous years.

More than half of all international graduate students are enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, according to the release. Comparatively, just 17.3 percent of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are enrolled in such programs.

“In contrast, the growth in first-time graduate enrollment for U.S. citizens and permanent residents between fall 2011 and fall 2012 was essentially stagnant at 0.6 percent,” the release stated.

CGS’s report stated first-time enrollment of domestic students in science- and math-related fields either remained the same or decreased from previous years. Although many people still apply to graduate schools, total enrollment in graduate students has seen an almost 3 percent decrease in the past two years.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said BU officials are willing to provide an education to any student, regardless of whether they decide to stay in the U.S. after graduation.

“We provide the education, whether they use it here in the U.S, even temporarily,” Riley said. “But, by and large, international students come here as guests of the government to get education and get visas to study at the school with the understanding that they are going to return home to their country after graduation.”

Lucas Hawk, a first-year Graduate School of Management student, said there are many international students in his program.

“I think it [American graduate school] is definitely popular now that the market is getting saturated with graduates from undergrad schools,” Hawk said. “Professional schools, medical schools and graduate schools are all up [in enrollment] because people lost their jobs and decided to get a better education.”

Rick Bresnahan, a first-year College of Engineering graduate student, said there are less international students in his classes than he had expected.

“Here, either there’s a lot less of them [international students] or they are just better integrated,” Bresnahan said. “… Here, I see international students, but the ones that are completely not immersed in American culture are pretty rare.”

Rachel Riley contributed to the reporting of this article.

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