The number of international students enrolled in American universities has increased this year by 3.2 percent over last year — the first substantial increase since 2001-2002.

While Yale’s own enrollment of international students has only increased 0.2 percent since last year, the total number of international students choosing to study in America made its first jump since suffering decreases of 2.4 percent and 1.3 percent in the two years immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to last month’s annual “Open Doors” study by the Institute of International Education.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”12953″ ]

The national enrollment of new international students — currently college freshmen — also increased by 10 percent compared to last year. Yale dropped from 51st to 58th in the overall rankings for number of enrolled international students among American universities with more than 1,000 such students.

Yale currently has 2,026 international undergraduate and graduate students enrolled, compared to 2,019 in the 2005-2006 academic year. According to the IIE study, 17.7 percent of Yale students are international.

Ann Kuhlman, director of Yale’s Office of International Students and Scholars, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Daniel Obst, director of membership and higher education services at IIE, said the national increase is most likely due to the efforts of American universities. Schools are proactively recruiting international students by attending college fairs abroad, collaborating with international education institutions and increasing funding for international recruitment efforts, he said.

“In a recent survey we completed among American colleges and universities, 60 percent of responding institutions said they have taken special steps to ensure that more international students are enrolling at their school,” he said.

Yale International Students Organization President Rachel Sam ’09 said the consistent number of internationals at Yale is due to administrators’ efforts to promote diversity and encourage international students to study in New Haven. But she said she thinks there is potential to expand these initiatives.

“One of the things that we could work on next is expanding the number of countries of origin among our international students,” she said. “Enrollment is very strong in certain areas, like China and India, but not very strong in others.”

The U.S. government has also introduced a number of programs aimed at increasing international enrollment, including EducationUSA, a worldwide network of college-advising centers overseen by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, according to an IIE press release. The increase in international enrollment reflects the U.S. government’s increased efforts at “welcoming” international students, Obst said.

“Visa application processes have been streamlined, and there are a lot more scholarship opportunities,” he said.

But Ian Convey ’11, an international student from England, said his attempt to secure a visa was “pretty complicated.” He said one of his primary reasons for choosing to attend Yale was the promise of need-blind financial aid, but Yale recruitment efforts are mostly focused on private schools and international schools.

“Educationally, international students at Yale are not very representative of their home countries because many of them come from international schools where they’ve already been exposed to a global curriculum,” he said.

Kwaku Osei ’11, an international student from Ghana, said he was drawn to America because he thinks it is where the best institutions of higher education are located.

“The universities back home are okay, but if you’re really trying to achieve something in life, you need to come here,” he said.

Many international students said even if they had been applying to colleges closer to Sept. 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks would not have had a significant effect on their decision to come.

“In Canada, we’re so close to the United States that the events were familiar and wouldn’t have come into play in most people’s decisions,” said Geoffrey Liu ’11, a Canadian Yalie.

Like Convey, Liu said he was interested in coming to America because of the liberal-arts education its schools offer. Many schools in Canada and Britain require students to pick a field of study before enrollment.

Obst also said America can be enticing to international students because of the wide range of educational options available. Students can go to a research institution, a community college or a small liberal-arts school, he said.

Obst said students around the world know their employment options increase with an American education because U.S. institutions have such respected reputations around the world.

For the sixth year in a row, the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, has the highest enrollment of international students in the country, while New York City is the top host city.

Harvard University’s current enrollment of 4,514 international students places the university in the top 10 of the IIE rankings, while Princeton University has 1,365 international students and is ranked 113th.