International student growth declining in the United States

Nov 21, 2018    Source: Chelsea Dibble

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Recent stats on the high number of international students in the United States have been dominating headlines. The 2018 Open Doors Report, produced by the Institute of International Education (IIE), states international student numbers in the US increased by 1.5 percent in 2017/18 to reach 1,094,792, up from just over 1.08 million in the previous period.

However, while international students in the US are at a record high, new student enrollments actually dropped by 6.6 percent in 2017/18, continuing a downward trend first observed in the 2015/16 academic year.

Increases in the total number of international students is primarily due to larger participation in the Optional Practical Training program, which allows international students to come to the US to practice their skills for a year, or up to 36 months if they’re a graduate student in a STEM field. More than 18 percent of international students were in OPT in 2017/18, up from 16.2 percent in the previous period.

Data from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) reports similar findings, stating that for the first time since 2003 international graduate application and first-time enrollment rates declined at US universities. For fall 2017, the final application counts from prospective international students declined by 3 percent, while the first-time enrollment of international graduate students declined by 1 percent.

“While students directly affected by the US travel ban constitute a relatively small percentage of international graduate students, there has been significant concern that new immigration policies will tarnish the US’s image as a welcoming destination for international students and scholars,” CGS states.