International Student Applications Decline, Concerns About Visas and U.S. Political Climate Rise

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. colleges are seeing declines in applications from international students, and international student recruitment professionals report "a great deal of concern" from students and their families about visas and perceptions of a less welcoming climate in the U.S., according to initial findings from a survey of 250 schools.

The survey effort was led by AACRAO, in partnership with the Institute of International Education, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the College Board and the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. The groups took on the issue after international educators expressed concerns that the political discourse surrounding foreign nationals in the U.S. leading up to the November 2016 presidential election could be damaging to international student recruitment efforts. A full report on the results, with more detail, is scheduled to be released at the end of the month.

Key findings of the survey include:

-- 39% of responding institutions reported a decline in international applications, 35% reported an increase, and 26% reported no change in applicant numbers.

-- Institutions report the highest declines in applications from the Middle East. Open Doors data from the 2015/2016 academic year indicates that there are more than 100,000 students studying in the U.S. from the Middle East, making up just under 10% of our international student enrollment nationwide. In the snapshot survey:

  • 39% of institutions have reported declines in undergraduate applications for Fall 2017 from the Middle East.
  • 31% of Institutions have reported declines in graduate applications for Fall 2017 from the Middle East.

-- Institutions report that applications from India and China have also been impacted. Open Doors 2016 indicates that these two countries currently make up 47% of our international student enrollment, with almost half a million Indian and Chinese students studying in the U.S.

  • 26% of institutions have reported undergraduate application declines from India and 25% reported application declines from China.
  • 32% of institutions have reported graduate application declines from China, and 15% have reported application declines from India.

-- International student recruitment professionals report a great deal of concern from students and families all over the globe, with the highest number of concerns emanating from the Middle East (79%), Asia (36%) and Latin America (34%).

-- The most frequently noted concerns of international students and their families, as reported by institution-based professionals, include:

  • Perceptions of a rise in student visa denials at U.S. embassies and consulates in China, India and Nepal.
  • Perception that the climate in the U.S. is now less welcoming to individuals from other countries.
  • Concerns that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, especially around the ability to travel, re-entry after travel, and employment opportunities.
  • Concerns that the Executive Order travel ban might expand to include additional countries.

-- 77% of institutions expressed concerns regarding application yield, with data that align closely to the countries of concern.


Related Links

AACRAO Trending Topics Survey: International Applicants for Fall 2017- Institutional & Applicant Perceptions

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