International Students in American Colleges and Universities: A History

Teresa B. Bevis and Christopher J. Lucas. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Pp. xi + 285.

Reviewed by Pi-Chi Han
University of Missouri, USA

Intended as an up-to-date and comprehensive historical overview of international students (both undergraduate and graduate) sojourning in American universities and colleges, International Students in American Colleges and Universities: A History offers an easy to read narrative for faculty and administrators interested in the history of international students as well as for the many stakeholders who interact with international students who come to study in the United States.

Covered with an old photo of an intelligent and determined looking, young Chinese student dressed in the Qing Dynasty era clothing, the book opens with an introduction that provides a brief overview of America in seeking internationalism and being the largest host country for international students. The narrative then follows with eight historically ordered chapters and concludes with future challenges and imperatives of reforming immigration law, initiating strategic planning for attracting global talents, and embracing large-scale political implications in global competition and international education.

The first chapter explores centers of higher learning and foreign students in ancient European history; the second reveals the first Latin American, Chinese, and Japanese enrollments in American colleges and the beginning of immigration policy in the 19th century; and the third offers abundant documentation of major topics of the early 20th century such as the first foreign students census (1900-1930), growing Latin American and Chinese enrollments, increasing enrollments from other world regions, international clubs and houses, female foreign students in the early 1900s, foreign students and Christianity, and the establishment of the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Chapters four through eight deal with the contemporary historical issues beginning with World War II through the Cold War to the present. Offering data from the next four censuses (1948, 1955, 1969-1970, 1999-2000), the authors analyze the influence of American foreign policy, the growth of foreign students, and the change after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Specific attention is given to (1) the importance of community colleges in attracting foreign students, (2) the intellectual migration in the fields of science and engineering, and (3) the debate between homeland security and global competition of recruiting international students.

In the conclusion, the authors pose queries into several significant areas: the overall decline of the international student enrollments between 2002-2003 and 2003-2004; the call from the authors to reform immigration law and the visa system; and the need for strategic planning in recruiting international students.

In addition to all of the interesting content the authors provide, they have avoided ethnocentric perspectives from the host nationals and instead elaborate on the positive outcomes such as foreign talent, brain gain, intellectual migration, and financial contribution international students have made in the U.S. Finally, the authors urge the readers to acknowledge how international students have assisted the U.S. in the cutting-edge technological development and in the growing knowledge economy for embracing the unprecedented changes in the world.

Highly comprehensive and informative, the book nevertheless leaves the readers wondering what the authors might have done better. First, while the text is an up-to-date book, the authors fail to provide the data from the latest international student annually census (2001- 2007). Second, although the authors have offered suggestions for policy makers in the final epilogue, they might have offered persuasive research literature and current interview data or other qualitative data of international students; thus making their case stronger. Third, while the book is about international students, the authors might have also explored more issues regarding the huge intercultural adjustment, adaptation, or even barriers that international students have encountered in the U.S. Taking these questions into account, readers will also, because of the book s reader friendly story-telling style and its comprehensive coverage, no doubt treasure this book as an important resource for learning about and working with international students.