The study, co-sponsored by CollegeWeekLive, looked at the decision making process of 1,718 prospective international students who had been admitted to US institutions.
Nearly two-thirds of students surveyed who did not enrol despite being admitted to a US institutions said they could not afford it
It found that of the students surveyed, ultimately 47% opted not to enrol, with an overwhelming majority of these students citing affordability as the reason.
Nearly two-thirds of those who did not enrol said they could not afford it. A further third said they may study at a US university in future but not this year, and nearly a quarter said they did not know enough about their chosen institutions to make a good decision.
“The sheer number of international students who got all the way through the enrolment cycle to be admitted to a US institution without realistically being able to afford it” was a stark highlight of the report, Kim Reid, principal analyst at Eduventures, told The PIE News.
The finding speaks both to students’ ambitions and a “lack of transparent information through the admissions process to inform students as to their real chance of finding financial support” from US institutions, Reid said.
“In a sense this miscommunication between student hopes for financial support and the lack of available financial support for international students (the institutional desire for them to be, for the most part, full pay) wastes institutional resources on non-viable candidates while leading those candidates down the garden path a bit,” she added.
The survey showed a degree of inverse correlation between the proportion of students from each region who enrolled at a US institution, and the proportion of non-enrolling students who cited cost as a barrier.
Students from Europe had the lowest conversion rate, with 43% of admitted students enrolling, and had the highest proportion of non-enrolling students citing affordability as the reason (68%).
In contrast, students from the Asia Pacific region were most likely to enrol (59%) but least likely to give affordability as their reason for not enrolling (62%).
Among those students who did enrol at a US institution, one-fifth were unable to attend their first choice university. Students’ first choice being too expensive was the primary reason for not attending (45%), followed by not being accepted to their first choice (44%).
“This underscores affordability’s influence in the decisions of US-enrolling international students,” the report states.
Based on these findings, it is imperative that institutions “address the reality of affordability” by clarifying costs and financial aid opportunities for international students early in the process “so that you do not waste their time and yours”, the report argues.
“International student engagement strategies should acknowledge and address this challenge up front,” it adds. “It is wiser to use precious institutional resources to yield students who reasonably can afford to study in the US than to lead students who ultimately will not be able to attend down the garden path.”
In order to maximise marketing resources, the report also urges US institutions to engage more effectively with students who can afford to attend.
“Students do benefit from asking admissions officers specific questions”
Building an accessible website, targeting students through social media and engaging through virtual platforms are all ways in which universities can be more efficient in their outreach, the report says.
The report also says institutional websites should include content in several languages and “provide a clear pathway to information for international students at your institution” when accessed from a foreign IP address.
Admissions officers’ should be able to engage on an ongoing basis with admitted students via Skype, WhatsApp, CollegeWeekLive and other virtual platforms, the report adds.
“Students may not be as interested in large-format events, such as virtual open houses, but they do benefit from asking admissions officers specific questions,” it notes.
“Given the distance and the lack of freely accessible local information about US universities, these assets have heightened importance for international students,” Reid commented.
“Thinking about the next step of optimising their website and social media for international students is not always top of mind when they are still trying it together for domestic students.”