Fewer foreigners applying to grad school

Five percent decline from 2004 to 2005 indicates that competition abroad is on the rise, according to school group.

The United States' ability to attract graduate students from around the world continues to fade, with competition from abroad a likely culprit, according to a report released Wednesday.

Graduate school applications from international students slipped 5 percent from 2004 to 2005, following a 28 percent decline last year, said the Council of Graduate Schools, a group of colleges and universities.

The report is sure to raise new concerns about U.S. leadership in the technology field, in part because foreigners historically have earned a large percentage of tech-related doctorates.

"America's prosperity depends on the scientific discovery, innovation and knowledge creation that occurs in U.S. graduate schools," council President Debra Stewart said in a statement. "We need to continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world, and at the same time increase our national commitment to graduate education through better support for domestic students."

On the other hand, not everyone sees a drop in foreign students as a problem. And the most recent data show a rise in the number of science and engineering doctorates awarded by U.S. universities.

In a survey of its 450 U.S. members, the council found that 60 percent of responding graduate schools reported declines in international graduate applications. The council said declines were notable for students from China (down 13 percent) and India (down 9 percent), as well as for students in the fields of engineering (down 7 percent) and business (down 8 percent).

According to the council, first-time international graduate enrollments declined for three consecutive years after Sept. 11, 2001. The three likely factors leading to declines in international graduate admissions are increased global competition, changed visa policies and diminished perceptions of the United States abroad, the council said.

This past year, the federal government made considerable progress in fixing problems in the visa system, such as reducing visa-processing delays, the council said. The council also credited graduate schools with improving their admissions systems, in part through the enhanced use of technology.

"We are encouraged by the steps taken by U.S. graduate schools and the departments of Homeland Security and State, but continued declines in applications suggest competition abroad is on the rise," Stewart said.

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