AMERICAN colleges and universities are receiving many more
applications these days from Eastern European and Soviet students.
Chinese students, too, are applying in greater numbers - despite a
pledge by their government to enforce limits on study abroad.
Under perestroika, Russian universities are free to negotiate
student-exchange programs for the first time without Moscow's
approval. In some cases the programs are still being set up.
"We have Soviet delegations arriving almost every other week - I
think (the airlines) will soon open a direct Moscow to Minneapolis
connection," says Robert Kvavik, associate vice president for
academic affairs at the University of Minnesota.
The annual flow of foreign students to the United States - some
366,000 at last count - will never alone correct the US trade
imbalance. But at a time when most American products face stiff
global competition, a US college or university education continues
to star as one of the nation's strongest exports.
About one-third of those who study outside their home countries
choose the US. The list includes such well-known leaders as
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Mexican President Carlos
Salinas de Gortari, and Philippine President Corazon Aquino.
"The US is still the place to study," says Martin Limbird,
president-elect of the National Association for Foreign Student
The number of foreign students in the US has grown steadily,
though at a slower pace now than in the late 1970s, says Dr.
Marianthi Zikopoulos, director of research for the New York-based
Institute of International Education (IIE). She says two-thirds of
the student arrivals choose public colleges and universities. Ninety
percent come with private financing. An increasing proportion is
graduate students. Engineering is the most popular field of study,
followed by business and management.
The nations from which students come change constantly. Fewer
students are now arriving from the Middle East, Nigeria, and
Venezuela. Iranian students, who at 50,000 were the most numerous
group in the late '70s, number less than 9,000.
More than half of all foreign students in the US are Asian. China
is the leading source; Taiwan runs a close second. The number from
Japan has been rising sharply.
The Chinese restrictions on study abroad require university
graduates to work five years before studying outside the country.
Students with relatives overseas, however, may get a waiver by
paying a fee.
Some US college officials expect the rules to be unevenly
enforced. Robert Brashear, who recently worked with the Chinese
Education Ministry under a Fulbright grant and is now director of
graduate admissions at Cornell University, says the Chinese are
"obsessed" by the decision of many Chinese students abroad not to
Still, unless enforcement patterns change, he says, local work
units will decide which students may leave. At the federal level,
Beijing officials have agreed to resume a small exchange of
Fulbright scholars next fall.
Dr. Kvavik of the University of Minnesota, which already has more
Chinese students than any other US university, says some of the
early college applications from Eastern Europe are "sad" in that
students don't know how to approach the task.
"You get these blanket statements written to the university
president saying, `We're looking forward to freedom - Can you help
place me? …