American higher education is attracting an increasing number of students from all over the world, with more than 450,000 foreigners attending U.S. colleges and universities in the 1994-95 school year. It was the biggest foreign class in history.
But Africans make up fewer than 5 percent of the international students, according to the Institute of International Education in New York.
To boost African enrollment, some American educators are actively recruiting students from Africa and are trying to establish exchange programs with African universities and institutions.
Nolan Shepard, director of international programs at the University of Mississippi, went to South Africa last year to recruit students as part of a trip coordinated by the Citizen Ambassador Program in Spokane, Wash.
The university, which was a whites-only institution in the early 1960s, has more than 500 international students. But African students account for fewer than 3 percent of its foreign students.
So, he said, recruitment could help fix such a disproportionate representation.
"American students can learn more about other countries and other cultures through students' interaction," said Mr. Shepard, who is in the process of establishing exchange programs with three universities in South Africa. American students can also be "aware of world affairs."
"South Africa is still entirely a [racially] separate society," said Charles Stanley, a professor at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla.
Many African students, mainly from Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, went to A&M to learn agriculture because the university is well known for its program, said Mr. Stanley, who was on the same trip. After graduating, African students "go back to work in an agriculture section [at home] and use what they learned," he said.
Mr. Shepard and Mr. Stanley were in one of the largest delegations of the Citizen Ambassador Program, which is part of People to People International, an organization founded by President Eisenhower 40 years ago.
The organization, which included the Sister Cities Program and Project HOPE, was developed amid mounting Cold War tensions as the United States and the Soviet Union were building up their nuclear arsenals. …