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US: Survey of admissions staff shows enrolment outlook varies widely

Almost two-thirds of admissions officers in the US – of nearly 400 canvassed – are concerned about a decline in international student applicants becoming a nationwide trend. However, only 32% of those canvassed believe a downturn would impact their own institution.

Almost two-thirds of admissions officers in the US – of nearly 400 canvassed – are concerned about a decline in international student applicants becoming a nationwide trend.Just how many international students will continue to be attracted to study in the US? Photo: students in Philadelphia, The PIE News.

45% of responding campuses reported declines in new enrolments, 31% reported increases and 24% reported no change from last year

The findings, taken from a survey of 392 admissions officers undertaken by Kaplan Test Prep, reveal a more bullish outlook held by admissions officers for their own institution that they have for the country as a whole.

To some extent, the survey also reflects the see-saw situation of new international enrolments detailed in last week’s Open Doors data release and separate IIE-led survey.

The latest Open Doors data showed an overall drop of 3% for new starts in autumn 2016. New enrolment numbers declined by nearly 10,000 students to 291,000 – a 3% decrease on the previous year.

In a separate survey that IIE conducted in September/ October, an average decrease of 6.9% was predicted by nearly 500 colleges and universities for the 2017/18 academic year.

But of the 500 or so HEIs which reported this, while just under half (45%) reported declines in new enrolments, 31% of campuses reported increases and 24% reported no change from last year.

In fact, over half of institutions reported steady or improving numbers

So in fact, over half of institutions reported steady or improving numbers: there is clearly a very different experience across various institutions of anticipated future demand.

Kaplan Test Prep also shared some of the anecdotes given by admissions officers taking part in the survey and this reveals very different attitudes.

One officer “unconcerned” about fewer international students in the future said, “Not concerned. I think there are a lot of colleges who utilise international students just for full paying tuition and not for the right reasons.”

Another noted that the safety of the US was “more important than international students coming to get an education.”

On the other hand, one “concerned” officer nodded to the political climate and said, “It’s something we worry about. We want students to come without barriers.”

Yariv Alpher, executive director of market research at Kaplan Test Prep, commented, “Notably, there is a broad range of opinions across schools nationwide, which represent the diversity of views that most colleges seek to cultivate on their own campuses.”

While no further data was immediately available to suggest why certain colleges might be more confident around their recruitment potential, Open Doors data did reveal that much of the growth reflected in overall numbers is due to foreign students on programs that allow them to take Optional Practical Training courses.

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