International Enrollments In US Colleges Declining

Julia de Raadt
Julia de Raadt

Julia has dedicated much of her career to education. Since commencing with Empowerly, Julia has looked after the research team which handles student questions on different topics about college admission.

Since Empowerly first started offering college admission counseling back in 2015, we have seen an increase in the overall number of foreign students studying in the US. However, the Institute of International Education (IIE) recently released a report that found that new student enrollments fell by 6.6 percent in 2017-18, the biggest drop since 9/11, continuing a downward trend which was first observed in the 2015-16 academic year. Across the board, international enrollments in US colleges are declining; in this article, we’ll dig deeper into this trend.

Firstly, the reasons for this drop in new foreign students vary. Some reasons include visa delays and denials, the “social and political” environment and the cost of attending a U.S. school. So, how does this impact the next class of applicants?

Hostile social and political environment

As a result of the tighter immigration rules, foreign students are feeling less welcome and some fear for their safety. Hate crimes and bias-related incidents are being reported more frequently on campuses like Columbia University and only a few days ago a Duke professor was stood down from her administrative role as Director of Graduate Studies for sending an email to students suggesting they not speak Chinese.

Many colleges are taking a stand and are becoming more committed than ever to protecting and providing for international students. Some colleges like Haverford and the New School in New York have even sued President Trump over immigration changes. They argue that Trump’s change in how it deals with international students on visas that have lapsed,  has resulted in lost tuition dollars and disrupted the education of students.

High cost of tuition

With the average college tuition for a bachelors degree in a public college being $8,600 and for private college $34,290, foreign students are increasingly looking to study in Europe, Canada and Australia. 

This may be a concern, as universities rely on international student tuition to make up for shortfalls in government funding. Only earlier last year, President Trump cut student aid funding by $200 billion over the next decade.  

More US students studying abroad

On the flip side, US students studying abroad is on the increase, rising by 2.3 percent. In 2016-17 over 332,000 U.S. students studied abroad. The reason for this increase could include:

  • there are now more options available in a globalized world
  • students are seeing the personal and professional benefits of experiencing a new culture
  • students see the importance of learning a new language.

US remains largest exporter of higher education

Despite the lower number of incoming international students, the US still remains the largest exporter of higher education in the world, hosting over a million foreign students. It boasts some of the best universities worldwide, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. By attracting international students with its world class education, the US also has much to gain – international students make a significant contribution including enriching the learning environment on campus with their diverse cultural perspectives, helping lead in innovation and creating jobs through startups.

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