Controls Over Foreign Students in U.S. Postsecondary Institutions Are Still Ineffective

HRD-83-27: Published: Mar 10, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 1983.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the recruitment of foreign students by U.S. colleges and universities and the controls over foreign students in the United States. GAO work focused on determining the current situation regarding foreign students, efforts made to resolve problems previously identified by GAO, and the status of criminal investigations now underway.

GAO found that the number of foreign students in the United States is increasing, and Iran continues to be the leading source of these students. Seventy institutions accounted for more than one-third of the foreign students in this country, although more than 2,700 schools reported that they had foreign students in 1980-81. It is estimated that the cost of foreign student education is about $2.5 billion a year. While problems in controls over foreign students noted in previous GAO reports continue to exist, legislation will be introduced and regulations have been proposed that are aimed at their solution. Legislation will be introduced that would require students to return home for 2 years before becoming eligible for immigration. Also, regulations have been proposed to strengthen controls over foreign students by the schools and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). INS is developing a new database on foreign students and approved schools that will enable it to better identify and monitor foreign student activity in this country. Criminal investigations are being conducted concerning illegal activities in connection with recruiting foreign students by postsecondary schools and foreign students illegally obtaining federally supported financial aid. In addition, regulations are being designed to prevent future recruiting abuses. Indictments have been made and are anticipated as a result of these investigations.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional details.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should review the information disclosed by the investigations now being conducted by the Alien Student Loan and Grant Fraud Project. If this review shows that the problem of foreign students fraudulently receiving federal financial aid is widespread, the Secretary should require each applicant for student aid to submit proof of citizenship or residency to the institution in which he or she is enrolled.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Dec 9, 2020

Dec 2, 2020

Nov 19, 2020

Nov 9, 2020

Oct 27, 2020

Oct 2, 2020

Sep 22, 2020

Sep 15, 2020

Sep 14, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here