International applications for US colleges on the decline

by Ray Clancy on March 15, 2017

Fewer students from around the world are applying to study in the United States, fuelled by concern about visas and worries about how welcome they would be, a new survey suggests.

Almost 40% of colleges are seeing declines in applications from international students, and international student recruitment professionals report a great deal of concern about the current climate towards people from other countries.

The survey conducted by six higher education groups, led by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, found that 39% of the 250 colleges which took part in the survey said they have seen a decline in the number of applications at undergraduate and graduate level.

Some 35% reported an increase and 26% reported no change but the survey report pointed out that steady increases in international applications and ensuing enrolments have become the norm for many colleges and many institutions have based their financial plans in part on sustained increases in enrolments of full time paying international undergraduates and any decline is therefore a major issue.

The highest drop in applications is from potential student from the Middle East which is probably not a surprise since President Donald Trump’s immigration bans have mostly related to Muslim countries from that part of the world.

Iran, one of the countries on the list of countries currently named in the list of those temporarily banned from entering the United States, has traditionally been one of the top nations for sending students to the US.

The research points out that there are other factors too. For example, the number of applications from Saudi Arabia were already falling before Trump was elected President and the report suggests tit may be due to changes in the Saudi government’s foreign scholarship programme.

Many universities responding to the survey also reported drops in applications from China and India, respectively the top two countries for international applications, accounting for nearly half of all international students in the US.

Universities are also reporting concerns from students and families, particularly those from the Middle East, Asia and Latin America that there has been a rise in visas being denied and that the US is now less welcoming to individuals from other countries.

There are further concerns that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, especially around the ability to travel, re-entry after travel and employment opportunities and also that the executive order travel ban might be expanded to other countries without much notice.

The survey was conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the College Board, the Institute of International Education, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the National Association for College Admission Counselling, and NACAC’s internationally focused subgroup, International ACAC.

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