HOPE Strategies for Universities to Grow International Student Enrollment

Rahul Choudaha speaking at Inside Higher Ed leadership series on international student trends in the US

I recently presented on a panel hosted by Inside Higher Ed on “The Latest Data on International Students” with a focus on how enrollments at universities and colleges are shifting and what can they do about it. One theme that emerged Tuesday was the growing divide between haves and have-nots as international student enrollments have fallen at some institutions and increased at others.

Here is the post-event summary article published by Inside Higher Ed. (Photo credit: Inside Higher Ed Leaderships Series).

I shared the framework of three waves of international student mobility. The first wave was shaped by 9/11 which resulted in new visa processes for monitoring student visas through SEVIS. In this Wave, defined by the period from Fall 2001 to Fall 2007, international enrollment excluding OPT and non-degree declined by 1% to reach just over 520,000 international students.

The Second Wave was shaped by the Global Financial Crisis which provided incentives and intensified pressures to recruit international students. In this Wave from Fall 2008 to Fall 2016, international enrollment excluding OPT and non-degree increased by 50% to cross 830,000 international students.

Now, we are in the Third wave shaped by political turbulence. However, the timing for the Third Wave couldn’t have been worse as Saudi and China momentum have been reversing, cost of education is escalating, and global competition is intensifying. “This is the first time, actually, we can’t let international student recruitment be on autopilot riding on the wave of demand growth from China, Saudi Arabia or any other country. This is our time to seize control. It won’t happen by itself anymore.”

I offered an acronym, HOPE for recruitment solutions, with the “H” standing for higher value institutions can offer students, the “O” standing for outreach, the “P” for partnerships with third-party providers and other institutions, and the “E” for investments institutions make in improving the experience of international students so they will return to their home countries as solid “brand ambassadors” for the institution.

– Rahul Choudaha


Reasons for decline and increase of enrollment in US higher education