International University Enrollments at Record High, ICE Worried

Published on March 27th, 2015

By Joe Guzzardi
March 27, 2015

The Department of Homeland Security issued its annual report that includes data on foreign-born students attending U.S. colleges. Called the “Student and Exchange Visitor Program, by the Numbers,” the analysis showed that last year overseas enrollments reached 1.13 million, an all-time record.

The rising total, up 14 percent from last year, 50 percent since 2010, and 85 percent since 2005, has caused consternation among American parents whose children are having an increasingly difficult time getting into state universities. In addition to facing rising tuition, and higher room, board and sundry expenses, qualified high school graduates must also compete with an ever-larger pool of foreign applicants. The variable is that U.S. students pay significantly lower instate tuition while overseas enrollees pay about three times more. Financially strapped state universities find the extra money too lucrative to turn down.

Some schools dispatch recruiters abroad to sell their programs. The University of Colorado Boulder sent representatives to 40 countries, a mission that resulted in a 41 percent increase in international applications for 2015-2016. At CU, tuition for international students is $35, 000 while the fees for Coloradans is $11,000.

But parents, feeling ignored and sensing that their children are the unfair victims of globalization, are pushing back. Arguing that their tax assessments support the universities, and that some institutions are land grant colleges expressly built to educate locals, parents understandably want more opportunities for their children.

Under growing pressure, universities have made some concessions. At UCLA and UC Berkeley, out of state and international students including those in graduate school, will be capped at 22 percent. Similar legislation passed in Iowa, Oregon, and Washington.

Critics also worry about the international students’ countries of origin. China sends more than any other nation, 331,371. Skeptics contend that it’s unwise to allow Chinese, who the Pentagon has charged with launching cyber attacks on U.S. computers and on defense contractors, to have such easy access to American intellectual property. At Michigan State, Chinese enrollment has increased eightfold in nine years; at CU, Chinese, Saudis, and Kuwaitis represent the largest body of foreign students. The three nations are suspected terrorism funders.

The students arrive on J, F, or M non-immigrant visas. What happens once they get to the U.S. or after they graduate is unclear. The State Department delegates tracking their movements to the university. According to the conditions of their visas, the students must attend class regularly. But if they vanish, their absences go unnoticed.

In 2014, ABC conducted an investigative inquiry which found that 58,000 student visa overstays could not be located. Then-Senator Tom Colburn (R-Okla) said: “They just disappear.” And Peter Edge, a U.S. Immigration and Customs officer who monitors visa violations, said: “Some of them could be here to do us harm.” Since 9/11, 26 student visa holders have been arrested on terrorism-related charges including the Boston Marathon bombers.

Edge called for tightening up the student visa program. Instead, federal immigration officials continue to grant certification to schools that allow them to accept overseas applicants who hold visas even if those schools lack accreditation, state certification, or offer a serious curriculum, e.g., institutions that teach beauty, massage or horseshoeing. For some academies, their primary goal is selling visas. Earlier this month, authorities arrested operators of four Los Angeles-area trade schools who ran a pay-to-stay visa scam that netted them $6 million annually in tuition payments.

The student visa program, easily susceptible to fraud, needs intense scrutiny. With little border or interior enforcement in place, the U.S. must tighten up on non-immigrant visas which represent an open invitation to con artists and to terrorists determined to wreak havoc on the American nation.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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