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Arizona public universities buck trend with more international students

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PHOENIX — Colleges and universities across the country are seeing fewer international students, but that trend isn’t carrying over in Arizona.

The state’s three public universities are seeing more international students enroll.

The increase comes at a time when a survey by the Institute of International Education finds U.S. colleges and universities reporting an average 7 percent drop of incoming international students.

Of the 500 colleges and universities surveyed in the fall, about 45 percent had declines in international students enrolled. Meanwhile, nearly a third said their numbers increased since last year.

Enrollment of international students at Arizona State University reached more than 13,000 during the 2016-2017 school year, up about 3 percent over the previous year.

“More and more each year, our student body looks like the world we live in,” ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement. “That’s deliberate. We have made a concerted commitment to be of service to people all around the world.”

At the University of Arizona, enrollment of international students increased from 3,827 in the 2016 fall semester to 3,932 in the 2017 fall semester.

Frank Camp, director of marketing and communications with the school’s office of global initiatives, said UA has an 89 percent retention rate of international students, the highest it has ever been.

Camp also pointed to the welcoming environment as a reason why enrollment of international students is on the rise. He noted that this week, the UA is hosting International Education Week to highlight the university’s international faculty and students. ASU is also hosting International Education Week.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that they do feel welcome,” he said.

Daniel Palm, associate vice president for global initiatives at Northern Arizona University, said the school also actively tries to provide a welcoming environment for foreign students.

“The best way to attract international students is to treat them with respect and to create an environment on campus that welcomes them,” Palm said.

The survey shows a mix of factors for the declining numbers, including the country’s uncertain social and political climate.

Palm said the university did hear concerns from foreign students about the Trump administration’s proposed travel ban for people from certain majority-Muslim countries, which has been halted by the courts.

Despite those concerns, enrollment of international students at NAU has been increasing. The university has 1,340 international students enrolled, up from 1,239 students in 2015.

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