Heading to the US for studies is a dream of many Indian students and their families. However, there has been a massive drop of 4.4% of the total number of students from India in 2019-2020. It’s being labelled as the very worst reduction in more than ten years.
New student enrollment from foreign countries in US universities has come crashing 42% during fall 2020. This 4.4% drop comes close to the 5% decline that was witnessed in 2005-2006. So, the percentage can seem damning now, but with the pandemic still raging in the US, this is expected to rise even higher.
So let us look at this picture with a microscope and dissect the numbers further.
Breakdown Of The Decline Percentage- India vs. China And New vs. Old
Open Doors 2020 is an annual elite survey carried out by the esteemed International Institute of Education with the American State Department. Key findings show that about 18% of a million international students enrolled in the US are from the Indian mainland. China held the only more significant percentage. Out of the million surveyed, around 35% were from China.
However, the enrollment rate drop means that 1.93 lakh Indian students didn’t go for US education in 2019-2020. This comes as a shock after the US witnessed a rise in enrollment rates for six straight years. A survey conducted at 700 institutions found that about 20% of their international students were studying online in 2020. It was further found that the total number of international students, including those who were studying exclusively online, dropped by 16%.
However, the worst hit of the lot were new enrolments. These saw a drop of a whopping 43%. Overall, the no. of new international students who can attend physical classroom classes has dropped to 72%. Many students, around 40,000 from the educational institutes surveyed, are opting for a wait-and-watch approach amid the pandemic. As such, they have deferred their fall admissions fully to another semester.
Breakdown Of The Decline Percentage- Masters vs. Doctoral Programs
A study done by CGS (Council of Graduate Schools) showed that foreign student applications have improved for the 2020 Fall season over various US universities. This study involved 326 colleges and universities. Growth of overall 3% has been detected between 2019-2020 Fall season.
The CGS study also revealed a double decline in the Master’s programs compared to the Doctoral level ones. It was found that the Master’s programs saw a decrease of 43%, whereas the Doctoral level ones were 26%. The study also showed that a 47% decline was seen in Asia, whereas a 36% decline was seen from North and East-African countries.
There has been a decline of -5% in Canadian student graduate enrollment as well. So this is indeed an international decline that the US universities are dealing with. Around half of all international students head to the USA to enroll in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) fields.
A 2017 study found that international students consisted of 70% graduate students in full-time computer science, 81% in full-time electrical engineering, and 59% in full-time civil engineering.
What Is The Reason Behind This Sharp Decline?
The biggest reason is, of course, the pandemic and resultant government-imposed lockdowns. These have affected every aspect of ordinary life ranging from education to transportation and everything else in between. As a result, some students haven’t been able to fly to the US.
Apart from this, the online modes and methods adopted by institutes have made students aware of the time-zone challenges. The report says that about half of the surveyed institutions adapt their courses and schedules to bridge this time difference gap. The Trump administration imposed restrictions on international students’ travel also played a significant role in this decrease.
Allan Goodman, the head of the Institute of International Education, says that he hadn’t seen a decline like this. However, he was confident that once the pandemic got over, the enrollment numbers will rise again. Goodman said: “What we do know is, when pandemics end, there’s tremendous pent-up demand.”
Why Is The Lack Of International Student Enrollment A Glaring Issue?
In short- money. International students contribute billions to the American economy. Rachel Banks, the senior director of NAFSA: Association of International Educators public policy and legislative strategy, said that international students pumped in approximately $44 billion in 2018-2019. These students, as such, support around half-a-million jobs.
Banks elaborated by saying that international students pay higher tuition than domestic students. She also said that in some cases, these students pay more compared to out-of-state students as well. So the US schools will be feeling the empty treasuries. Also, international studies bring cultural and social diversity to the campuses as well.
University of Illinois’s director of international student services, Martin McFarlane, said people want to cast their net as-wide-as possible. The campus boasts of 10,500+ international students, the highest total number of international students present in any US university. He further elaborated that higher education consists of idea exchanges. McFarlane said: “We are so interconnected globally that if you are cutting yourself off from that, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
A Diplomatic Advantage
The US knows about the long-term advantages of hosting international students. It helps them magnifying and influences the nation’s diplomatic capabilities. Research has revealed that international students tend to trust their host nations, leading to future business opportunities and visits.
Along with the loss in diplomatic edge, international students’ loss could mean that the US loses its global competitive edge.
While there has been a drastic reduction in Indian students who enrolled in the US between 2018-2020, this decline can be seen in other international students. This decrease is the result of the pandemic, Trump policies, high fees, and different time-zones. However, people are hopeful that students, especially Indian students, will begin flocking to US institutions again once the pandemic gets over.