For U.S. Colleges, a Drive to Retain Foreign Students

SAN DIEGO — Like many American colleges, the University of West Florida has seen significant growth in recent years in its international-student enrollment.

But another trend alarmed Rachel Errington, director of the university’s Office of International Students. The number of foreign students leaving the university, a public institution on Florida’s Gulf Coast, without earning a degree was also on the rise.

In 2008, West Florida’s retention rate for international students was 95 percent. Three years later, it was 83 percent. What, Ms. Errington wondered, was going on?

She is not the only one who has been asking. Late last month Nafsa, the association of international educators formerly known as the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers, released the findings of a United States survey on international-student retention at its annual conference in San Diego.

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