Impact of Recession on International Student Enrollment in the US

international student data undergrad grad public private

“International students bailed out public universities during the recession that began in 2008, their tuition helping fill the budgetary hole left by state funding cuts,” according to an article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

My quote in the article

International students bring both talent and treasure….Yes, the United States remains a strong destination, but we can’t make the assumption that students don’t have other choices.

In 2010, the sum total of international undergraduate and graduate enrollment was comparable. However, in 2017, total international undergraduate enrollment was 17% more than that of international graduate enrollment. International undergraduate students in public universities form the single biggest segment enrolling 310,000 students out of over 905,000 international students enrolled in public and private, not-for profit institutions offering bachelor’s degree or higher. This shows critical importance of international undergraduate students especially for public universities.

The article also highlights that international students have a wider set of choices as more countries get active to recruit students and grow international enrollment. The article notes “A decade ago, American colleges could look to other countries, such as Australia and Britain, for models of using international students to offset demographic declines and cuts in taxpayer support. Now more global competitors are vying for students, many with advantages such as lower tuition, friendlier work and immigration policies, and reputations for openness and safety.”

Recent escalations of the trade-war with China has made it more difficult of universities to attract Chinese students and likewise, many Chinese families are finding it more difficult invest in overseas education due to weakened currency. In addition, visa scrutiny have created a suspect out of every genuine student and scholar intending to be in the US.

The impact of the impending recession can be even harsher for many universities. This calls for urgency to recognize the importance of welcoming immigration and visa policies for international students and for universities to inform and invest in the next phase of enrollment strategies.