International Undergraduate Student Recruitment: Reversal of Trends for 2015?

Nov 21, 2011

Enrollment of Indian students in undergraduate programs in the US for Fall'2010 has declined by ~8% as compared to previous year (IIE Open Doors, 2011). In contrast, China enrollment at undergraduate level has increased by 43%. This translates into increase of 17,055 Chinese students as compared to decrease of 1,188 Indian undergraduate students. Are these trends for Chinese and Indian undergraduate students sustainable? What are the future directions?
Undergraduate Student Enrollment in the US (IIE Open Doors)
                    India   |  China
09/10         15,192  39,921
10/11         14,004   56,976
% change      -8%      43%
I project that beginning 2015, growth directions of undergraduate market for China and India would start showing an opposite pattern (I was quoted on this in the Chronicle of Higher Education). This is the time when India would emerge as a major market for undergraduate student recruitment while China would start showing a decline.

Decline of Chinese undergraduate market: Two primary reasons for decline of Chinese market are changing demographics with decline in population in age bracket 15-19 and over-representation on US campuses. A recent story in the Chronicle highlighted "The China Conundrum" and notes that "The students, mostly from China's rapidly expanding middle class, can afford to pay full tuition, a godsend for colleges that have faced sharp budget cuts in recent years. But what seems at first glance a boon for colleges and students alike is, on closer inspection, a tricky fit for both."
Population in age bracket (15-19) for India and China in million         
                   2010  2015 change % change
India             111 116             5            5%
China            104 86            -18         -17%
          Source: US Census International Programs 
Ascend of Indian undergraduate market: Two primary reasons for increasing growth of Indian undergraduate market are increasing number of rich-kids will start graduating from school and the slow pace of reforms in Indian higher education would not be able to keep pace with demand for quality and ability to pay for good education. I define Gen-Q as children born in late 90’s to the parents working in new-age industries like IT and telecommunications. Gen-Q will start going to college from 2015 onwards and will expect quality and has an ability to afford international undergraduate education.

Given that undergraduate recruitment requires significant amount of seeding and relationship building, institutions should start preparing for this upcoming major shift by cultivating the market in advance.

-Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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