One of the things that has struck me when I've been in such countries as India and Saudi Arabia is the desire of young people there to go to the United States for a college education.
In fact, when I and other journalists interviewed lots of Saudi government officials in Riyadh and Jeddah in 2002, it was hard to find top leaders there who weren't graduates of American colleges and whose children weren't attending now after them or soon planning to.
But recently that picture has been changing -- and not for good reasons.
For instance, the San Francisco Chronicle reported here recently that applications to the University of California from foreign students have fallen for the first time in more than a decade.
"Now," the Chronicle story says, "the phenomenon (of a drop-off in international applications experienced at the 2003 start of the Iraq war) appears to be back — not only at UC, but at campuses across the country, according to a new national survey of 261 colleges and universities by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Nearly 40 percent of those schools reported a drop in international applications of at least 2 percent, with the greatest decrease from countries in the Middle East."
With the hostility expressed toward Muslims from the president and his administration, this is no surprise.
But the effects are widespread. For instance, The Kansas City Star reported here last month that fewer foreign students have been applying for entrance to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. And in a recent meeting I attended at Avila University, President Ron Slepitza told us that the same thing has been happening at that Catholic university.
The upshot of all this is much worse than a simple loss of revenue for public and private universities. When foreign students come to the U.S. to be educated, several good things often result. One, they stay and become welcome, educated additions to the domestic work force. Two, they go home after being educated about American culture and they become ambassadors for the U.S. and for ideas about freedom in many ways. Occasionally, of course, they go home and denounce the widespread American preference for conspicuous consumerism and our sexually charged entertainment industry. This has happened with some Muslim students, particularly. But on the whole having tens of thousands of foreign college students in this country is a great benefit to them and to the U.S.
A government's public attitude of hostility toward certain religions is costly. (See Saudi Arabia, where only Islam is allowed, as another example of this phenomenon.)
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STANDING AGAINST CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
A state prosecutor in Florida has made the right choice by refusing to seek the death penalty in any more cases. But the governor and others are fighting her. How sad. Capital punishment -- in which the state lowers itself to the level of the most violent criminal -- must end in every state and at the federal level. And soon. Abolishing the death penalty is the right and moral thing to do.