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Mon, July 22

<I>Talk of the Town</I><BR>Let's encourage, not thwart, international students

Today' s world is full of conflict, not only militarily but also between cultures, ethnic groups and religions. The uncertainty we feel as a result of world events and the effects of these events on our perceptions of safety and security here in the United States is understandable, and certainly requires our government to develop policies and regulations to ensure the safety of all.

A major way to provide for the safety and security of the American people is to continue the United States' long-standing tradition of offering international educational opportunities to American students interested in studying overseas, and to provide fair and consistent access to foreign nationals who choose to study, teach, and participate in research here in the United States. These types of international educational experiences allow American students to learn the languages, cultures, and histories of countries outside the United States, and they provide some of the best and brightest students and scholars from around the world the chance to learn firsthand about American society and values.

In the 2002-03 academic year, more than 150,000 American students studied abroad, while nearly 600,000 international students and scholars engaged in academic pursuits here in the United States. Students participating in these academic exchanges often go on to become the leaders of government and business in their countries, and they maintain close and friendly ties with the United States, improving our political and economic standing in the world by developing democratic ideals in their home country and supporting beneficial trade arrangements between the U.S. and other nations.

According to economic impact statements for 2002-03 from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students and scholars pump more than $12 billion into the economy of the United States; in Prescott alone, the 41 international students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have an estimated $1.3 million dollar impact on our local economy. Businesses feel this financial benefit when students purchase housing, goods and services, and education as they arrive in Prescott from all over the globe. International students attending Yavapai College and Prescott College also have major financial impacts on those institutions, and add significantly to the Prescott economy with their purchasing power in local businesses. In addition to economic gain, international students in our community provide a diverse view of the world, enriching the educational experience of domestic students by sharing their unique perspectives on world issues affecting us all.

Unfortunately, the growth of this vital industry is slowing dramatically in the United States. Increasing government regulations and the monitoring of international students has caused the United States to lose some of its deserved reputation for being the best choice of places to study and conduct research for foreign students and scholars. An ever increasing share of prospective international students and scholars are choosing to attend colleges and universities in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom because foreign student and scholar visa policies and procedures in those countries have been written with an understanding of the great benefits international education can bring to their country.

The Departments of State and Education have jointly proclaimed Nov. 17–21 as International Education Week in the United States. Many Prescott-area residents come into contact with international students in our community because they rent apartments from us, patronize our businesses, volunteer in our service organizations, or attend the same church as we do. You may not ever know that these individuals are citizens of a different nation, yet they certainly remember the kindness and generosity they have received from most Americans. International Education Week provides us with an opportunity to recognize the contributions of students from foreign countries to our community, and gives us a chance to encourage our children to learn about other people, cultures, and countries through educational exchange and study abroad programs.

By encouraging participation in exchanges and advocating for sensible laws governing international students studying here in the United States, we can fulfill the vision of international exchange programs that President George H.W. Bush stated so clearly in 1989: "International exchanges are not a great tide to sweep away all differences, but they will slowly wear away at the obstacles to peace as surely as water wears away a hard stone."

For more information on International Education Week, go to http://exchanges.state.gov/iew/

Andy Fraher is director, Counseling Services and International Student Services for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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