seal  Purdue News

November 18, 2003

Purdue international student enrollment a record high

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Despite increased security checks for international students, Purdue University has reached an all-time high in international student enrollment, maintaining its first-place ranking in international enrollment among the Big Ten universities and public institutions, according to a report released by the university.

Purdue's Office of International Students and Scholars reports that a total of 5,094 international students from 126 countries and 681 international faculty and staff from 70 nations claim Purdue as their home this fall semester.

International students make up 13.1 percent of the overall Purdue student population. Of that total, 2,081 make up 6.7 percent of the undergraduate student body, and 3,013 make up 37.7 percent of all graduate and professional students.

"There is a mixed message embedded in this year's international student enrollment numbers, however," said Michael Brzezinski, director of International Students and Scholars. "While the total enrollment has reached an all-time high, we actually have experienced a decrease in the number of new students from abroad (1,077 this year versus 1,255 last year). The international undergraduate student freshman class, as well as the total international undergraduate enrollment, both decreased in accordance with the enrollment management planning goals of the university. This fall semester, 282 international freshmen enrolled versus 314 in 2002. Also, a total of 2,081 students from abroad are enrolled in each of Purdue's academic schools, down from 2,101. This year's increase occurred at the graduate student level."

Brzezinski attributes the increase in Purdue's overall international enrollment to student retention initiatives and a less-than-favorable job market.

Student retention efforts include various social and cultural programs that complement the academic experience, such as the International Friendship Program that pairs international students with families and individuals in the West Lafayette community and Purdue's GO (Global Outreach) program that arranges opportunities for international students to visit area schools and share their cultures with local children.

Security and background checks associated with the student visa application process have played the most significant role in the decline of new students, Brzezinski said.

Prior to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, student visas were usually issued by a U.S. embassy in less than two weeks. Now, delays of as much as two months are common, especially for males ages 16-45 from all Middle Eastern and certain Asian countries. Prior to being approved, many student visa applications are now sent to Washington, D.C., to be reviewed by several federal agencies. An embassy must wait for these agencies to approve the applicant prior to issuing a student visa.

"This process has discouraged some students from choosing U.S. institutions to continue their educations," Brzezinski said. "I am hopeful that the Department of State will continue to improve the efficiency of the visa application process so that the necessary security and background checks will not continue to be a major deterrent to international educational exchange.

"If there was ever a need for promoting international educational exchange, now is the time, given the era in which we live. We need to continue to foster cross-cultural understanding, and education can be a tool used to achieve that end. We must not lose sight of the fact that education is a key factor in the war on terror.

Slightly more than 70 percent of Purdue's international students hail from Asia, with 45.5 percent in engineering, 14.7 percent in science, 13.3 percent in management, 6.8 percent in liberal arts and 4.6 percent in agriculture. Thirty-six countries have 20 or more students represented.

India ranks first among countries with students at Purdue, with 1,027 students. The People's Republic of China is second with 797, followed by South Korea with 600, Indonesia with 262, Malaysia with 243, Taiwan with 197, Turkey with 143, Canada with 137, Pakistan with 105 and Japan with 89.

Among faculty and staff, the top 12 countries represented are the People's Republic of China (120), India (102), South Korea (91), Canada (30), Japan (27), Russia (23), France (22), Spain (22), Germany (19), Brazil (16), United Kingdom (16) and Taiwan (15). The majority are involved with life sciences (138), followed by engineering (113), agriculture (105) and other physical sciences (93).

Writer: Reni Winter, (765) 496-3133,

Source: Michael Brzezinski, (765) 494-5770,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: The complete fall 2003 International Students and Scholars enrollment report is available online.

Related Web sites:
State Department educational exchange programs

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