In the news: Fewer foreign students are coming to U.S., survey shows

November 16th, 2017
The University of Iowa campus in Iowa City in 2014. Experts said that an uncertain social and political climate in the United States was part of the reason for a decline in enrollment. Credit Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The first new college class since the election of Donald J. Trump has arrived on campus, and new numbers confirm what the higher education industry had feared: Fewer foreign students are coming to the United States.

By Stephanie Saul, Nov. 13, 2017, The New York Times 

The number of newly arriving international students declined an average 7 percent in fall 2017, with 45 percent of campuses reporting drops in new international enrollment, according to a survey of nearly 500 campuses across the country by the Institute of International Education.

Experts cited an uncertain social and political climate in the United States as part of the reason for the decline in enrollment.

“It’s a mix of factors,” said Rajika Bhandari, head of research for the institute, which collects data on international students in cooperation with the State Department. “Concerns around the travel ban had a lot to do with concerns around personal safety based on a few incidents involving international students, and a generalized concern about whether they’re safe.”

Another reason for the decline is increasing competition from countries like Canada, Britain and Australia, said Allan E. Goodman, president of the institute.

The figures released Monday also included final numbers for 2016-2017, which show robust international enrollment, with a record 1.08 million international students in the United States, an increase of 85 percent from a decade earlier.

Much of the record was driven by 175,000 students who have remained in the United States after completing their degrees, in internship-type programs known as “optional practical training.”

The 2016-2017 figures, though, revealed that first-time international students dropped 3 percent, indicating that the decline had begun before President Trump took office.

The drop in new students signals potential financial difficulties for some small universities that have come to rely on money from foreign students, who provide an infusion of $39 billion into the United States economy each year.

Particularly hard hit are campuses in the Midwest, according to the institute.

At the University of Iowa, overall international enrollment this fall was 3,564, down from 4,100 in 2015.

Downing Thomas, the university’s dean of international programs, said that some other schools in the Big Ten are also experiencing declines, and none are seeing the rapid increases of the recent past.

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