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Immigration crackdown affects LCC.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

The aviation maintenance program at Lane Community College is having to retool after losing 25 percent of its enrollment to new immigration restrictions on foreign students.

Eleven of the 45 students in the program last year came from Saudi Arabia, but no new Saudi students will attend this year because they are unable to obtain visas to study in the United States. LCC has a long-standing relationship with Saudi Airlines and has offered aviation maintenance training to its employees for more than 10 years.

The students appear to be caught up in the State Department's heightened scrutiny of student visa applications, particularly those from Middle Eastern countries, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Although the government will not say how many applications are pending, various news reports indicate that thousands of foreign students may be unable to attend U.S. schools this fall.

Also, students in aviation programs are believed to be receiving even closer inspection than those in other majors. Several terrorists received flight training in the United States before flying hijacked jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Cliff Guse, an instructor in the aviation maintenance program, said immigration officials are "just not issuing new visas." He said five or six Saudi students who attended LCC last year should be able to return this year, but the usual influx of new students appears to have halted.

"I usually expect between three and 10 new ones and there are just none in the pipeline," he said.

Guse said LCC also lost four students last year when they went home for summer vacation and were not allowed to return. All were good students who ended up completing their training in Jordan, he said.

On top of losing its international students, the LCC aviation program also faced the prospect of sharply higher tuition for in-state students as well. The program was to come under LCC's new differential tuition policy, which bases tuition on the number of hours students spend with instructors rather than on the number of academic credits each class earns.

Under that plan, tuition for aviation maintenance students would jump 65 percent to $2,405 a year. Several students told LCC board members they wouldn't be able to afford that kind of increase.

To keep the program afloat, advanced technology chair Dave Keebler and the aviation faculty proposed changes that would save the college $50,000, twice as much as the $25,000 in additional tuition that would come through the differential pricing plan. That convinced the LCC board to take aviation maintenance out of the differential tuition program.

Some of the cost savings will be used on a marketing program to help draw 25 to 30 new aviation students to replace the Saudi students, Keebler said. The aim will be to get more in-state students to sign up.

The future for international students at both LCC and the University of Oregon remains unclear. The government is requiring personal interviews with everyone seeking a visa to enter the United States, creating a backlog at embassy and consular offices abroad.

To help students and visiting scholars get through the backlog in time for fall classes, the State Department has told embassy staff to move those applications to the front of the line. But continuing problems with the new computer system used to track foreign visitors have college officials worried.

"We are concerned about it," said Ginny Stark, director of international student and scholar services at the University of Oregon.

One sign that international enrollment may drop this fall is the number of foreign students taking intensive English language courses this summer. Students take those classes to meet university admission requirements.

A survey by the American Association of Intensive English Programs and the Institute of International Education indicated enrollment in the classes is down 30 percent from expected levels. The groups blamed the decline on visa delays and denials as well as the SARS epidemic.

Stark said it's too early to tell how many international students admitted to the UO will actually make it to Eugene, a figure known as the yield.

"We don't know what the yield is going to be this year," she said. "That's still kind of a big question for us."
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Title Annotation:Saudi students aren't able to attend an aviation class; a visa backlog raises concerns; Higher Education
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 13, 2003
Words:713
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