The University of Iowa

In the news: International students pump millions of dollars into Iowa's economy. But their numbers are dropping at the University of Iowa and Iowa State

October 12th, 2018

(Photo: Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Kathy A. Bolten, Des Moines Register

When Chenfeng Duan goes back to his parents' home in China, he's peppered with questions about his experience studying abroad at a university in the U.S.

"How much does it cost to attend an American university?" some ask the University of Iowa sophomore. "Are the people friendly? Is it safe?"

"Chinese parents want to send their child abroad to study," said Duan, 19, whose family lives in Anhui province in eastern China. "They have a lot of questions."

A decade ago, American universities and colleges often were the only ones considered when students from China, India and elsewhere around the world made decisions on where to study abroad.

Now, worldwide competition for international students is on the rise, especially from Germany, Canada and Australia, whose leaders want to bolster shrinking workforces. Those countries have made it easier for international students to work in their countries after graduation, while the U.S. has put on greater constraints. 

Coupled with the rising tuition in the U.S., the result has been a drop in international students attending colleges and universities in Iowa and across the U.S. And university officials worry their institutions could suffer as a consequence.

“International students do so much more than create diverse atmospheres on our campuses,” said Thomas Harnisch, state relations and policy analysis director for the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “They contribute billions to our economy. Jobs are created.