The number of foreign students enrolled at Missouri colleges and universities topped 16,000 last year, according to a story filed this week by the Associated Press.
An annual report by the Institution of International Education states Missouri's public and private higher education facilities had 16,061 international students during the 2011-2012 academic year. That was up 6.3 percent from the previous year.
The state Department of Higher Education says most foreign students pay full tuition at Missouri institutions. The report estimates that international students spent about $418 million in Missouri.
At Northwest Missouri State University, international enrollment is down by about 40 students this year, with 248 students from countries other than the United States enrolled at the start of the fall 2012 term.
Director of International Affairs Jeffrey Foote attributed the decline to lower numbers of graduate students, whom he described as "vocationally focused" and therefore apt to delay pursuing an advanced degree while the economy is soft and hiring levels are low.
Foote said Northwest is also facing increased competition for international students from large research schools such as the University of Missouri.
That assessment would seem to be borne out by MU's Columbia campus being cited in the report as having the most international students among Missouri schools last year, with about 2,200.
Washington University, a private institution in St. Louis, was second, with about 2,000.
China provided the largest number of international students in Missouri, accounting for about 29 percent of the total. At Northwest, the greatest number of international students come from India, with most pursuing degrees in computer science.