The Magazine

The Brain Drain That Wasn't

Foreign students still flock to American universities.

Jul 25, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 42 • By ROBERT SATLOFF
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As for the charge that State Department officials are rejecting more student visa applications now than ever before, the evidence suggests otherwise.

According to information provided by State's Bureau of Consular Affairs, refusal rates--including for students--are essentially unchanged since before September 11. Moreover, the bureau also reports that the absolute number of student visas issued is actually on the rise. This trend applies across the globe, from major foreign-student exporters China and South Korea to the politically sensitive Middle East. In fact, four-fifths of all Middle East countries saw an increase in the number of students issued visas in fiscal year 2004 over the previous year.

Last year's blip in foreign student enrollment attracted headlines, but it obscured the real success story of post-9/11 American higher education. What should have been news is the fact that foreign students came to the United States in ever larger numbers after the 9/11 attacks and that the vast majority still brave the campaign of rumor and exaggeration to take advantage of the opportunities of American colleges and universities today. That's the real story--or, in this case, the nonstory.

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is the author of The Battle of Ideas in the War on Terror.