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Some universities calling off Mexico travel plans
Associated Press
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Published: 4/30/2009 12:01 AM

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CHAMPAIGN -- Western Illinois University senior Eric Skelton planned to spend part of May and June studying in central Mexico. The 23-year-old business management major had already paid a $200 deposit and was excited about the prospect of traveling to Querétaro.

But the Geneseo native's plans are on hold indefinitely after the Macomb school postponed travel to Mexico to prevent the spread of swine flu to its campus.

A number of American universities are calling off faculty and student travel to Mexico and at least one is evacuating students from the country. The list includes campuses from Western Illinois to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Tulane University in Louisiana.

Skelton said Wednesday he was initially concerned about swine flu but wouldn't have hesitated to go to Mexico if the school had green-lighted the trip.

"At first I was kind of concerned with everything," he said. "Then I just kind of thought to myself this was an opportunity."

Western Illinois has postponed plans to send several groups of students and faculty to Mexico in May, June and July, said university spokeswoman Darcie Shinberger. Also, plans to host 14 Mexican college students and an instructor in June and July are on hold.

"All university sponsored travel to Mexico is halted at this time," she said.

Dartmouth is evacuating 11 students and two faculty and staff members from Cholula, Mexico. No students are ill.

A spokeswoman for NAFSA: Association of International Educators, a leading membership group in the study-abroad community, said it was not tracking how many colleges canceled programs.

About 9,500 U.S. students studied in Mexico in 2006-2007, according to the most recently available figures from the Institute of International Education, making it the seventh-most popular international destination for American students.

Colleges putting Mexican study on hold as of Wednesday also included several University of Wisconsin campuses, a group of Tennessee schools that include the University of Memphis, Georgia Tech University, the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota.

Other schools say they're monitoring the flu's progression.

Penn State University urged students, faculty and staff to delay travel to Mexico as a precaution.

The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana has not called off Mexican study but expects at least some of its fewer than 10 students studying at Mexican universities to leave before the current semester ends, said Steve Nussbaum, the university's director of student international academic affairs. The university will find ways for them to finish the semester's work, he said.

"They can either take tests here or write papers here," he said.

Officials at Slippery Rock University in western Pennsylvania said they expected a decision Thursday on how 22 students who recently returned from Mexico will mark their graduation.

The students were in Mexico City for a five-week student-teaching experience. The university said it has gotten hundreds of calls from people concerned their participation in Saturday's commencement ceremony could spread the virus.

It is not known whether any of the students who returned from Mexico on Tuesday were exposed to the virus and all reported good health. But Saturday's commencement falls in the middle of an incubation period in which the students were advised to limit contact with others.