By Tara Bannow, The Iowa City Press-Citizen 
The number of international students enrolled at the University of Iowa hit an all-time high this fall, and the increase from last year was more than double the national rate.
There are 3,571 international students at UI, up 14 percent from the 2011-2012 academic year, in which there were 3,130 international students. Nationally, the number of international students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities increased by 6 percent over the same time period, also marking a record high of 764,495 students, according to the 2012 Open Doors report released by the Institute of International Education.
The economic impact of UI’s international students tops that of the state’s other two regents universities combined. UI’s international students contributed $101 million to the state economy last year, compared with $201 million among all three public universities, according to data from the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors.
UI appears to deviate from the national trends when it comes to studying abroad, however. The Open Doors report, which presents study abroad data one year later than international student statistics, identified a 1.3 percent increase in American students studying abroad for academic credit in the 2010-2011 compared with the year before. UI, on the contrary, saw a 1.3 percent decrease in that time. Fall 2012 study abroad data hasn’t been released yet.
More than one-third of the international students at UI — 1,245 — are from China, according to International Programs data. Another 383 students are from Korea, 316 are from India and 98 are from Taiwan. More than 9 percent of international students flock to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where the most common majors are mathematics, economics and psychology.
Attracting the best and brightest international students to UI isn’t without its roadblocks, Downing Thomas, dean of UI’s International Programs wrote in a memo releasing fall 2011 international student data. Despite the federal government’s ongoing public relations effort to attract students, negative stigmas persist surrounding the U.S. visa process, as well as a stereotype of unfriendliness in the U.S., he wrote.
“With competition from universities from Australia, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, France and many other nations, no longer can we count on students coming to the university solely on our academic reputation,” Thomas wrote. “We must continue to actively recruit international students at all levels to our institution and to provide the services and supportive atmosphere that are vital to students’ success and happiness.”