US Shuts Down Afghan Student Exchange Program Last year, half fled program for Canada By Tim Karan, Newser Staff Posted Jul 15, 2011 3:40 PM CDT 6 comments Comments The US quietly suspended its student exchange program with Afghanistan last winter. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Colin Perkel) (Newser) – The State Department has suspended its student exchange program with Afghanistan as more participants started abandoning the program and fleeing to Canada instead of returning home. The Youth Exchange and Study program has brought hundreds of Afghan students to the US since 2004, but the State Department quietly put it on hold this winter, reports NPR. As the US troop drawdown looms, many Afghan students worry about their future at home—where having visited America is often stigmatizing. Canada allows minors to seek asylum within its borders, but fleeing students were causing a "brain drain" back home. "We certainly had to weigh the cost and benefit, because the benefit of these kids coming back is huge, really huge," says a representative for the US Embassy in Kabul. "But the cost of them not coming back is also huge for this country. This year, we decided that the costs are outweighing the benefits."