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US: SEVIS figures confirm international student drop

Newly-released SEVIS figures from the US Department of Homeland Security have confirmed the drop in international students signalled by the IIE’s Open Doors report.

The uneven spread of spread of students was arguably more stark this year. Photo: Unsplash

Stakeholders said they were not surprised by the news, after several Open Doors reports suggesting a fall

Students on F and M visas, for both academic and vocational studies, were down a combined 3% across the US.

“The canary in the coal mine stopped singing a few years back”

The data, released in raw form and via an interactive map, shows some states lost thousands of students – with California standing out, falling from 195,265 students in 2018 to 186,928 according to the March 2019 count. Texas lost more than 5,000 students, and New York lost around 2,000 students.

But others, notably Massachusetts, which houses prestigious institutions like Harvard and MIT, saw an increase to its global student body. In 2018, New England had nearly 74,000 international students, and this year it had almost 76,000.

David Di Maria, associate vice provost for international education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said the figures were expected.

“I don’t believe the new data are very surprising to anyone. The canary in the coal mine stopped singing a few years back after changes were made to major scholarship programs, so a decline was inevitable,” he told The PIE News.

But he’s not only a commentator – he was recently invited to take part in a Congressional briefing with the staff of top-ranking politicians to explain the international education market situation. And he told them there’s a solution.

“While I recognise that policies, priorities and support for higher education vary greatly across each of the 50 states, a national strategy would at least help to coordinate efforts and resources at the federal level,” he said.

“Regarding the disparity between states and regions, I believe a national strategy could include incentives for international students to enrol at institutions located in areas where domestic enrolment is declining. Other incentives could encourage recent graduates to pursue practical training or employment in regions, states and industries where there is a clear labour shortage.

“Study Hawai’i discussed this and are not overly concerned”

“I would also hope that any national strategy would not just be limited to the recruitment of international students, but also aim to increase the number of US students going abroad and support international research collaborations,” he added.

Beneath the headline figures, many states with smaller numbers of students, like the island state of Hawai’i or Montana and Wyoming, saw little change, at worst a small loss.

However, Joel Weaver, co-founder of the Study Hawai’i Educational Consortium, said the figures weren’t a worry on “the islands of Aloha”.

“We’ve been discussing this among Study Hawai’i members this week, and we are not overly concerned.

“Study Hawaii members are not ‘circling the wagons’, but are looking at ways to continue to work more effectively together to promote the outstanding opportunities for getting a world-class education here in the islands of Aloha.

“We continue to see strong engagement with Japan and South Korea”

“We know that events and actions outside of our control, especially by the current US administration, may be the cause of some of the decline,” he told The PIE.

Weaver said the ELT sector was the foundation to the relative stability in Hawai’i, with East Asian recruitment especially strong.

“Especially in the ELT sector we are continuing to see strong engagement with our regular source countries in east Asia, such as Japan and Korea.”

But it’s not a market standing still and resting on its other attractions.

“The nature of the kinds of students continues to change, however, from long-term degree-seeking to shorter-term certificate and professional development courses.  This is forcing many in the international recruitment sector here to retool and refocus,” he explained.

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13 Responses to US: SEVIS figures confirm international student drop

  1. It’s very hard my nephew he got excepted an FAU in Florida he said excellent student with he could not get his student visa because it’s very hard to get the requirement for international students is a very very very sad I wish I could do something fHe lives in Mexico an excellent student if anybody can help me I would appreciate thank you

  2. The recent developments regarding international students cast lot of anxiety on the students and their parents

  3. I am a graduate of Polymer and Textile Engineering at Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria. Presently I am a student of Healthcare assistant in Institute of Fevola, Rome,Italy. I will finish by July this year. And would like to do my MSC

  4. Of course anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the president and general uptrend in xenophobia and racist violence will obviously make international students who are primarily from Asia consider other countries like Canada, Germany or Australia which are more welcoming.

  5. Just this morning, I spoke with an agent from India who came to visit our New York film school. As she was being processed by U.S. immigration, the interviewing officer asked her ‘Why are you coming to the USA?” (standard question).

    Her answer: “I’m an agent. We hope to send more international students to study at American universities”.

    The response? (listen to this!)

    “But why? We don’t NEED any more international students in the USA.”

    Absolutely amazing!

    This just shows the disconnect between the recruitment efforts made by the 3rd level institutions and their overseas partners, working to bring in eager foreign students versus the message on the ground from some arrogant Mister or Missus Jobsworth* official, sitting on their stool at the processing gate.

    What an appalling impression to leave on this visitor whose responsibility it is to ‘sell’ the USA as a study destination!

    “Jobsworth, Jobsworth, It’s more than me job’s worth,

    I don’t care, rain or snow,

    whatever you want the answer’s no,

    I can keep you waiting for hours in the queue,

    and if you don’t like it you know what you can do.”

    • International students are shifting focus away from USA, countless visa denial after going through the expenses of application and sometimes school fee deposit. If other countries processing is easy and precise I don’t see why I should waste my precious resources on US.

  6. The number of F-1 student declines because the US embassy has been denying over 80% of student visa applications. I am a recruitment agency so this information is accurate. Many institutions, colleges, universities closed down in the past year. If they keep denying a lot of visa application like this, a lot of people will lose their jobs snd it will effect its own economy.

  7. Sadly, Trump’s contentious issue is affecting enrollments and is yet one more thing that makes being an international student away from home difficult, compounded by our complex culture and language problems. Welcoming and assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources, including the White House, to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand.
    Something that might help anyone coming to the US is the award-winning worldwide book/ebook “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” Used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it identifies how “foreigners” have become successful in the US, including students.
    It explains how to cope with a confusing new culture and friendship process, and daunting classroom differences. It explains how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.
    It also identifies the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.
    Good luck to all wherever you study or wherever you come from, because that is the TRUE spirit of the American PEOPLE, not a few in government who shout the loudest! Supporters of int’l students must shout louder.

  8. I have been denied an F1 visa three times despite proving my intent, social ties, ability to sustain my fees and getting a tution waiver from the institution. This is after spending alot of money on the whole application process tried canada and it was seamless. The only reason for the decrease is the unfair denial of student visas. Why do these rude embassy officials feel like they can treat us like monkeys in our own countries i think the only job the us consulate does is milk money from poor kenyans who want to further their education and shape up their futures with their ridiculous fees and denying tyem visas at the end.

    • The US visa officers are super rude. Some of our students got denied after 1 single question. They don’t even make an eye contact with the students. It looks like they have been ordered to denied most F-1 visa applications. I have been an recruitment agent for more than 10 years. This is the worst year for our agency and partner schools in the US.

  9. Many legit students wish to come to the US to improve their English language skills or pursue a US degree. It is sad what this government is doing right now. Its all politic, they just want to please their supporters who against foreigners, so they will get re elected. One international student spends an average of $30000 per year on tuition an living expenses. The US has been denying over a million F-1 visa since 2017. How much money the country has lost? Why are they so afraid that international students will overstay? Its not that easy to make enough money to cover cost in the US. Especially for International students who don’t even have s social security number. Any business that hires unauthorized workers are risk of being shutdown. Let me I ask you Americans, will you hire an international student who is not authorized to work in the US?

  10. A more useful set of stats would be the total number of new international student arrivals in August/September of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017. And, to see these stats by country of origin. From a marketing standpoint, such stats would be extremely valuable.

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