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Foreign students trickling back to US

A modest rise in new enrollees from abroad begins to stem the post-9/11 drop-off, a report finds.

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Karian Antoine, an elementary school teacher from the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, had long wanted to go beyond her two-year college degree. But the idea of furthering her education in the United States had never attracted her – especially, she says, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, though, the Grade 4 teacher at a Catholic school for boys is working her way toward a degree from Virginia's Lynchburg College. She enrolled in Lynchburg's program to train special-education teachers, which the college set up in St. Lucia, and is now one of 23 foreign students at the small liberal arts school.

Antoine is part of a modest rise in the number of new foreign students in the US, the first increase after several years of declines after the 9/11 attacks. While educators hope it signals a return to America's status as a magnet for international education, they acknowledge that getting more students like Antoine to study in the US will take a more coordinated effort from the government and higher-ed institutions.

With just under 565,000 foreign students, the US remains the world's most popular destination for students looking to further their education in another country. But that number is still below the high point of 584,000 foreign students set in 2002-03. US government efforts to streamline the visa process for foreign students, after a post-9/11 tightening of access, is one factor in a return to a rising number in the 2005-06 school year, experts say.

But a global market for foreign students means that American colleges and universities face more competition today – in particular from countries like Britain, Australia, and Japan.

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