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Fewer foreign students choosing NM universities

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The number of foreign students at New Mexico universities fell 4.6 percent last year, but the amount of money they spent here still increased slightly, according to a new national report.

There were 3,595 foreign students at the state’s higher education institutions during the 2016-17 academic year, according to the “Open Doors” report released earlier this month. That’s down from 3,767 the previous year.

New Mexico ranked 43rd overall among states for international enrollment, according to the data from the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. California topped the list with 156,879 foreign students.

China has the strongest representation in New Mexico, making up 13.1 percent of international students. India, Kuwait, Mexico and Nepal round out the top five.

In New Mexico, according to the report’s estimates, foreign students spent about $93 million — about $26,863 apiece. That’s up from $91.2 million the previous year.

University of New Mexico, the state’s largest school, hosted the most foreign students. It and New Mexico State University combined to account for 78 percent of the state’s foreign students. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology had about 5 percent.

UNM’s numbers remained relatively steady at 1,577 students, according to the data. But the university remains vulnerable to the same forces affecting international enrollment nationwide, according to Pablo Torres, associate director for international admissions and recruitment with UNM’s Global Education Office.

After swelling 85 percent nationwide in the last decade, international enrollment at U.S. higher education institutions has begun leveling. The total number climbed 3 percent last year, but the report noted a 3 percent dip in the number of “new” international students coming to the U.S. for the first time.

Economic conditions and increased educational opportunities in students’ home countries have contributed to slower growth, IIE said in a news release. The organization also cited cuts to government-backed scholarships in Saudi Arabia and Brazil.

Torres said UNM saw declines in students from those countries and is looking to other regions to offset those losses. In addition, Torres said in an email that UNM is “seeing greater competition for international students coming from universities in other English-speaking countries, in particular Canada and Australia.”

Nationally, U.S. schools saw a record 1.08 million foreign students. The highest numbers came from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

Private institutions in major U.S. cities led the way: New York University had more international students than any other school. The University of Southern California ranked second.

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