College Applications Down from International Students

Posted By Terri Williams on April 11, 2017 at 7:42 am
College Applications Down from International Students

The U.S. has always been a melting pot, and nowhere is this more obvious than in higher ed. However, that trend might be changing. The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers recently conducted a survey of 250 colleges and universities about applications for fall 2017. One result: 39% of colleges report a decline in applications from international students.

Digging deeper into the survey reveals some startling numbers about the Middle East, which accounts for 10% of international student enrollment. Now, 39% of undergrad and 31% of grad institutions have reported declines in applications from the Middle East for fall.

However, the decline is widespread. India and China account for 47% of international student enrollment. But 26% of undergrad and 15% of grad institutions have reported declines in applications from India and 25% of undergrad and 32% of grad institutions have reported declines in enrollment from China.

Consequences of fewer international students

Many Americans may not realize the impact of foreign students in the U.S. Jill Welch, deputy executive director for public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, tells GoodCall® that a decline in international students is detrimental to the country’s economic growth. “During the 2015-2016 academic year, international students contributed $32.8 billion and supported more than 400,000 jobs to the U.S. economy—that means for every seven international students in the United States, three American jobs are created or supported.”

At schools such as Indiana State University, 20 percent of revenue comes from international students, even though they make up only 8% of the student population. The reason? Foreign students tend to pay full tuition in addition to room and board.

Economically, U.S. success is largely dependent on embracing individuals from other countries. “Nearly one quarter of the founders of the $1 billion U.S. startup companies first came to America as international students, and immigrants have been awarded 40% of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine and physics since 2000,” Welch explains.

“We are in a global competition for international student and scholar talent and have already seen other countries, like Canada, China and Australia, adopt friendlier immigration policies.” As a result, the U.S. is now in danger of no longer being a leading destination for international students and scholars.

This could have a ripple effect on the country and the economy. “The fear right now, particularly with the two executive order travel bans, is that the United States will lose out on not only a valuable economic contribution to our communities but also on future foreign policy, trade and other benefits if international students and scholars perceive that the United States is no longer welcoming them,” Welch says.

Beyond economic factors

Besides the financial losses, there are other negative implications of a decline in international students. “Generations of foreign policy leaders have agreed that educational exchanges are one of the United States’ most successful foreign policy tools.” If students from other parts of the world stop coming to America, Welch says we will lose the opportunity to forge relationships with rising leaders in other nations.

She says these relationships are critical for strengthening our national security. “Educating students from a wider number of countries and backgrounds is one of the most powerful tools of diplomacy and development we have, leading to greater security and interconnectivity.”

That’s because those students and scholars can actually serve as “informal U.S. ambassadors,” who can provide an alternative view of the U.S., according to Welch. “In many cases, future U.S. and foreign leaders will have studied together, creating even more direct diplomatic ties.”

This may be one of our best hopes for peace and collaboration. Esther Brimmer, NAFSA’s executive director and CEO, tells GoodCall®, “The United States needs international students, professors, researchers, scientists and future leaders coming to this country to further our universities’ educational mission, teach our students and increase mutual understanding between the United States and the rest of the world.”

Foreign students also help the U.S. in another way. According to Dr. Shelly Chandler, provost of Beacon College in Leesburg, FL, since we are now a global community, we must prepare our students to be part of the community by making them aware of global issues. “As colleges prepare students for their careers, they study how jobs are becoming increasingly international, and point out how English is no longer the dominate world language.”  For example, a recent report revealed that in the near future, America will need foreign labor to fill STEM jobs. And Chandler says students are beginning to realize that they need to be prepared to compete in the world’s marketplace.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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