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Sunday, March 26, 2006

100 More Saudis to Enroll at Arizona

The UA will enroll about 100 new Saudi Arabian students this summer, which could signal the reverse of a post-Sept. 11 trend of having fewer international students in the United States, especially those from the Middle East. 

The students are part of a new large-scale scholarship program by the Saudi government, which will send about 6,000 students to American universities this year after just 1,442 Saudi students had visas to study in the United States in 2004.

About 80 of the students are already at the UA, enrolled in English-immersion classes before they start their academic programs in the fall. More are expected by the start of next semester as they secure visas.
"International education and student mobility are critical to a lot of positive initiatives worldwide," said Joanne Lagassé Long, director of the Office of International Student Affairs. "The best way to do that is have students study in each other's countries."

The Saudi scholarship program comes at a time when international student interest in American universities is rebounding nationwide. After Sept. 11, 2001, new federal procedures and delays in obtaining U.S. visas caused a decline in foreign students in the United States.

International-student enrollment at the UA surged from the late 1990s until 2002, but has dropped sharply since. The UA had 3,011 international students in 2002 but was down to 2,446 last fall. There's a distinct economic benefit to international students, with the new Saudis expected to have an impact of about $3 million a year on the Tucson economy.
But with this new crop of Saudi Arabian students, it's clear the UA is a hit.
"U of A is famous in Saudi Arabia," said Abdullah Alshammari, 35. "All of them didn't come by chance. They made a plan."

Alshammari, who will be a doctoral student in environment engineering, said he chose the UA because of its reputation. Teachers of his in Saudi Arabia studied here and recommended it highly.

Most of the students at the UA had positive recommendations from alumni in Saudi Arabia, including family members, friends and teachers. Aside from the academic quality, many remember Tucson as a comfortable place.
"Arizona is like the Saudi climate," he said.

The UA had a large number of Saudi Arabian students in the 1970s and early 1980s, but that number declined in the mid-1980s as Saudi Arabia began building universities to keep its own students, said Alfred Stover, assistant Center for English as a Second Language director for outreach and development.

"Now they really want to foster positive relations with the U.S. and that's one of the many reasons they want to send students here," he said. "We're hoping this is positive because the purpose is to facilitate a relationship between countries, just like international education does."
The program grew out of an agreement in April by President Bush and then-Crown Prince Abdullah, with the more open policy part of larger efforts at improving relations between the two nations.

Hattip: LGF

Read the rest.

Not surprising as Tucson was also the favorite destination of bin Laden followers and others with terrorist connections. Saudi Arabia also has extensive investments in the United States, sort of like the fox providing for the chickens in the henhouse its about to raid!


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