The more than 4,000 international students enrolled this year at the University of Michigan are extremely important to our educational environment. About 129 different nations are represented in our student body and the students from those countries contribute immeasurably to the rich learning experiences that all students at the U-M enjoy.
The total number of student visas issued by the State Department each yearabout 500,000comprises only about 2 percent of all nonimmigrant visas.
Our American system of higher education, with its openness and diverse student communities, represents one of the worlds treasures. During a time when foreign relations are crucial to the well-being of our country, it is more important than ever that our universities remain a place where different cultures can be studied and understood. The participation of international students and scholars is an essential part of this process. In addition, the education of foreign nationals at U.S. universities ensures a steady flow of individuals who have learned about American economic, political, social and cultural values and who carry those experiences back to leadership positions in their home countries.
Nevertheless, the terrorist attacks on our nation have changed the climate in which we live and work. We are sensitive to concerns about security and we understand the impetus to tighten policies at the federal level. President Bush, for example, has noted legitimate concerns about determining whether international students who receive visas are actually enrolled in college.
The American Council on Education, of which we are a member, is working with the government to propose improvements to our system of international student visas and to ensure that new regulations have an effective monitoring and funding structure. We are supportive of these efforts, and we will gladly work with the Presidents task force and other government agencies on measures that serve to strengthen our national security.