Date of Award

12-2007

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Mazie Hough

Second Committee Member

Phil Pratt

Third Committee Member

Suzanne Estler

Abstract

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress and the Bush Administration reexamined the legal tools available in the fight against terrorism and deemed these tools inadequate. On October 26, 2001, Congress overwhelmingly passed and the President signed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act). This Act enhanced the federal administration's capacity to track international students in the U.S. and introduced tighter security screening of visa applications. The purpose of this study is to assess the relationship between post-9/11 visa regulations and international student enrollment levels at the University of Maine. Two central questions are addressed: 1) To what extent does an analysis of archived and current institutional data from the University of Maine indicate a relationship between post-9/11 visa regulations and international student enrollment? 2) To what extent do the perceptions of University of Maine international students provide insight into the relationship between post-9/11 visa regulations and international student enrollment levels? The study examined archived and current international enrollment levels in the United States and at the University of Maine from 1998 to 2006. Nationally, undergraduate international enrollment rose between 1998 and 2001 but fell from 2002 through 2005. Graduate international enrollment in the U.S. fluctuated between 1998 and 2001, and fell from 2002 through 2005. These figures suggest that post-9/11 changes in the student visa process may have influenced international enrollment in the U.S. At the University of Maine, the figures for undergraduate international enrollment were similar to the national trends—rose between 1998 and 2001 but decreased from 2002 through 2006. However, graduate international enrollment decreased between 1998 and 2001, increased in 2002, and fell between 2003 and 2006. These figures suggest that factors other than post-9/11 visa regulations may have contributed to graduate international enrollment at the University of Maine. To address the study's second question, an anonymous survey was conducted to determine the extent to which the perceptions of international students at the University of Maine provided insight into the relationship between post-9/11 visa regulations and international student enrollment. All international students at the University of Maine were invited to participate in the study. The survey examined the decision of international students to attend the University of Maine, their thoughts on post-9/11 visa changes, concerns for personal safety, and perceptions of Americans' attitudes toward minorities. Participation was voluntary, and respondents obtained no direct benefits from participation in the survey. The findings may benefit university stakeholders and policymakers by making available information regarding the relationship between post-9/11 visa regulations and international enrollment levels at the University of Maine. Consequently, respondents may acquire indirect benefits from the data. The report reveals two major findings. Following years of decline in first-time international enrollment at the University of Maine, there was an early indication that first-time enrollment increased for fall 2005 and continued in 2006. This is a positive sign but must be interpreted in the context of those successive years of decline. Also, respondents' perceptions were not statistically significant regarding post-9/11 visa changes based on their country of origin.

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