The latest

For the third consecutive year, the growth rate of international applicants to graduate schools in the United States has slowed, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. International applicants to social science and psychology fields fell by 5 percent compared to last year.

India and South Korea, for example, sent 9 percent and 7 percent fewer students, respectively, to the United States this year than last year. And while China, Turkey and countries in the Middle East sent more students than last year, it wasn't enough to offset the overall decline.

An analysis by The Chronicle of Higher Education (Vol. 55, No. 32) suggests that international grad students may be focusing their application efforts on graduate schools typically popular with international students, such as the University of Southern California, Columbia and Stanford.

Applications are up 6 percent among the 100 most popular institutions but down 4 percent among those outside the top 100.

The worldwide economic recession is a likely culprit in the slowdown, says Daphne Bugental, PhD, who chairs the University of California, Santa Barbara, psychology department. Because international students often pay higher tuition than U.S. students, the financial burden is sometimes too great an obstacle.

Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis at CGS, agrees that the recession is the biggest factor, but notes that universities in Canada, Europe and China are also attracting a larger share of the international applicant pool.

—M. Price