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Utah's universities are facing a future teacher shortage, particularly in the science field, due to a steady decrease of American graduate students and an increase in foreign students who return to their countries after graduation, a Utah State University spokesman said.

Foreign students comprised about 52 percent of those admitted to USU's graduate program this year and about 20 percent of the University of Utah's program, according to school officials."It's a real growing concern that we are not going to be able to replace our aging faculty," especially in the science fields where foreign students make up as much as 70 percent of the class, said USU graduate program director Lawrence Piette.

Unlike foreign students who may receive adequate financial assistance from their governments, American students must grapple with continuing their education or entering the work force.

"Most undergraduates have about $10,000 in loans when they graduate, and then they are asked to choose between making $30,000 to $40,000 (per year in some science fields) or poverty," said Piette.

Educators also blamed the shortage of American students on inadequate preparation before graduate school.

"The quality of elementary, secondary and college academics has eroded enough that many aren't capable of going on to graduate school," said B. Gale Dick, graduate school dean at the U.

Greater financial assistance from both government and private industry is needed, said Piette, and closer screening to ensure Utah's universities are getting the most talented and brightest foreign students.

While enticing foreign students to remain in the United States after graduation is one possibility, educators would want to ensure they were best.

Better contacts with foreign universities could help locate students that speak proficient English.

And raising the standard of the required entry test for foreign students would eliminate the less talented because "there is evidence in some countries the students are being taught how to answer the exam and take the test, which makes their scores higher than American students," said Piette.

But both men agreed the major problem is the decrease of American graduate students, not the increase in foreign students.