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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Stricter homeland security regulations are one reason foreign-student enrollments are declining at Utah's public universities, school officials say.
The number of foreign students at the University of Utah this fall is 1,502, down from 1,562 in 2004, and at Utah State University it has fallen from 792 in 2004 to 741 this year.
Weber State University spokesman John Kowalewski said foreign students have never been a significant part of WSU's overall student-body population, but homeland security restrictions since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are reducing international student numbers there as well.
"Before 9/11, Weber State had 261 foreign students," he said. "This year, it's 158."
Increased competition from Canada and European countries for foreign students also is a factor, said Bill Barnhart, director of the University of Utah International Center.
Despite the declining enrollments, Barnhart remains optimistic. He said there is support in Congress to "soften the more restrictive regulations" for foreign students.
"We believe this will eventually get fixed so that we can bring the numbers back up," he said.
Universities are concerned because foreign students add diversity to schools and often also work as teachers and researchers. Their financial contributions to schools and the communities in which they live also are significant. The International Educators Association estimates these students and their families spend $11 billion annually in the United States.
When their numbers decline, "it's the graduate schools that take a major hit," Barnhart said. "It's a concern because we can't seem to recruit enough American students to do very scientific graduate programs."
To deal with the declining enrollments, administrators are looking to Latin America.
The University of Utah already sends students on study abroad programs in Argentina, Chile and is starting a summer language program in Brazil, Barnhart said.
"Sending our students to those countries will help our recruiting efforts," he said.
USU got 56 students from the Dominican Republic this year. Over the past 20 years, USU has trained Dominican government employees in irrigation engineering.
The new Dominican students, 40 undergraduates and 16 graduates, are recipients of a $4 million government scholarship investment by their government to study science and engineering at USU.
Most of the students are learning English through USU's intensive English Language Institute, said Joyce Kinkead, vice provost for USU. As they become proficient in English, they will go into basic classrooms on the USU campus.
In contrast to the other schools, Brigham Young University had a small increase in the number of international students this year.
BYU has 2,261 students from foreign countries, up from 2,253 in 2004, said Carri Jenkins, spokeswoman for the church-owned school.
"The growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside the United States is the source of some of those members coming to BYU," she said.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)