According to the 2017 Open Doors paper published by IIE and the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, there has been a slowing of growth in international student numbers to the US, with an overall increase of just 3% compared to increases of 7-to-10% for the previous three years.
“The reality is there are fewer students from Kansas attending any college”
The NYT reports that schools in the Midwest have been particularly hard hit, many of which had come to rely heavily on tuition from international students who generally pay more than in-state students. It found that drop in enrolments has accounted for $14 million in lost revenue and a decline of more than 1,500 international students from the previous year at the University of Central Missouri, alone.
At Kansas State University in Manhattan, an overall enrolment decline of more than 900 students, including 159 fewer international students were reported.
“The reality is there are fewer students from Kansas attending any college and far fewer international students studying in the United States,” said Pat Bosco, K-State vice president for student life and dean of students.
The NYT article also suggests that restrictive views of the Trump administration are partly to blame for the decline due to difficulty in obtaining visas, restricting travel from certain countries and making it harder for international students to remain in the US after graduation.
While government officials describe these as necessary national security measures, a number of US colleges have been casualties of the policies.
“I am more of an optimist. We need to be”
One key point, however, could risk going unnoticed in this reporting. And that is that US college admissions have been falling across the board, since at least 2010.
Of course, this will not bring solace to international educators and agents around the world. But it should also be noted that there is optimism in the sector.
And experience varies widely across the US; in the flash survey conducted by OpenDoors, 31% of institutions reported international enrolments were up on the previous year.
As reported by The PIE News, Study Group recently signed two new agreements with HEIs in the US looking to expand international recruitment and offerings.
Agreements with West Virginia University and Baylor University mean Study Group signed six agreements in 2017, which CEO David Leigh said indicated a very positive outlook for international student recruitment.
“The opportunity today is certainly stronger than it has ever been in the five years that I have been with Study Group,” he said.
Study Group North America MD Emily Williams Knight was also positive about the future, at least in part due to actions already taken to ward off a negative reaction to actions taken in Washington DC.
“I am more of an optimist. We need to be. Study Group started the campaign, ‘You are welcome here’ the day after the [US presidential] election. We felt very strongly that we needed to… get the message into the market that this is still a wonderful place to come to university, there are still incredible opportunities,” she told The PIE News.
“Has the landscape changed in the last year? Absolutely. Do I believe, as we have seen globally in the UK and in Australia, it’s a bit, in some cases, of a rollercoaster of ups and downs,” Williams Knight added.
“I believe that the long-term future of international higher education in the US will absolutely maintain itself.”
William Brustein, vice president for global strategies and international affairs at West Virginia University, also appeared confident when he spoke to The PIE on future WVU plans to expand its global offering.
“WVU’s international student enrolment has been increasing over the years (reaching roughly 2300 international students from more than 100 countries). Our goal is to reach 12% of overall enrolment (today we are at 8 percent),” Brustein said.
He added that by forming new partnerships, to take effect in 2018, the university hopes to increase the breadth of the institution’s international student body.
“[WVU hopes the deal will] enable us to increase the diversity of our international student population (currently roughly half of our international students come from the middle east),” he said.
Brustein added that recent news and publications have not affected the institution’s international recruitment aims.
“IIE’s open doors information is closely monitored here at WVU, but it did not impact our decision to enlist the support of study group.”