Ryan Chartrand

Out of more than 18,000 students, 143 may seem like just a drop in the bucket.

This is the number of international students at Cal Poly this quarter, including exchange students as well as undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students.

There is a distinct difference between the two types of international students.

Exchange students stay for one to three quarters and come from specific universities around the world.

“They really are Cal Poly identified, just like a Cal Poly student,” said Barbara Andre, associate director of International Education and Programs. “They love this place and they do come back. Some will try to get back in graduate programs, too.”

Cal Poly currently has about 28 exchange programs and about one-third of its incoming international students are exchange students. Faculty exchange coordinators (who are not compensated extra to do so) work directly with their universities to make sure all their academic information checks out. The IEP offices help with the non-academic end of the process, including assistance with Visa information, orientations, meetings and more.

Degree-seeking students, whether undergraduate or graduate, have a more grueling process to get into American universities.

There are more than 20 forms to fill out and get authorized, including a passport and a F-1 Visa, according to the Cal Poly International Student Handbook.

Since Sept. 11, there have been additional processes put into place for international students to go through.

“Most of the time they go in for a personal interview before they receive a Visa for entry into the U.S.,” Andre said. “It’s complicated; after Sept. 11, everything’s changed a great deal.”

SIVAS, or Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a system that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses to track and collect data on international students. It tracks information such as academic status, enrollment, employment, U.S. and home addresses. While the system existed prior to 2001, it garnered additional funding and nationwide compliance after the USA Patriot Act was passed.

Compared to other California State University schools, the amount of international students at Cal Poly is low, said John Battenburg, English professor and director of International Education and Programs. Since the university is so impacted, and there are lots of qualified applicants, it does not actively seek out international student to reach enrollment, as some others do. The numbers for Cal Poly students going abroad, however, are high: more than 800 this year alone.

Though American higher education as a whole has rebounded back to pre-Sept. 11 numbers, the national trend is lower than it has been in decades past.

“Although they have indicated, the state department, that they are very receptive to having international students come, the fact of the matter is, that particularly from certain countries, particularly in certain disciplines, it has become much more difficult to have international students come here,” Battenburg said.

Other English-speaking countries like Australia, Canada and the UK are now receiving many international students. Why? These countries don’t have Visas, students can finish in a more timely manner and it’s more inexpensive, Battenburg said.

“For decades in America, we were creating the best and the brightest, the leaders came from abroad,” he said. “We are losing that competitive advantage . losing it in terms of their scientific abilities, how they can contribute to American universities. We’re also losing it because we can no longer influence them in ways we could historically.”

Battenburg would like to see the amount of international students at Cal Poly increase, especially in the exchange and graduate programs, which he said would be the easiest for the university. Currently, the College of Engineering has the most international students, in its programs.

“They realize the importance of internationalizing the curriculum – they realize the importance of an international experience for engineers,” he said. “Their graduates will work with people from all over the world.”

Check out the paper tomorrow for more about international students. Next time, hear about the experience from the students themselves.

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