According to preliminary reports from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, international student enrollment decreased by 13 per cent for Texas’ public colleges and by almost 12 per cent at private or independent institutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic was described by the coordinating board staff as the most significant disruption to higher education institutions since the end of the Second World War,” noting its dire impact on enrolment and college completion rates for students especially international students.
The pandemic had less dire effects in the Houston area.
According to a university spokeswoman, Texas A&M University, which the Institute of International Education ranked 21 for international students for the 2019-2020 academic year, saw a 5 per cent decrease in its international students, which includes students enrolled outside the U.S.
The University of Houston experienced a 6 per cent decline, and Rice University saw a 2.5 per cent decline in its degree-seeking international population. Alternatively, Houston Baptist University had an enrollment increase of 9 per cent, according to numbers provided by the university, with a total of 161 international students in the fall. Enrollment among international students at the University of Texas at Austin, which was previously ranked No. 34 for international students, was decreased by almost 20 per cent, dipping from 5,326 to 4,437, one of the state’s highest declines.
But Sonia Feigenbaum, Vice Provost for Global Engagement and Strategy/Chief International Officer at UT-Austin, said that compared to other colleges across the nation, the university had experienced less success in student enrollment.
We worked hard to bring everybody into the fold. We have people from all over the world taking courses,” Feigenbaum said. “It’s been hard, by and large, but students are very pleased to continue their work on the course.”
Feigenbaum said the pandemic presented many challenging moments for international students, with some unable to enter the country because of closed consulates or visa delays, but UT has been working since March to pivot to a hybrid format that can engage the international community. The college’s hybrid or online courses were used by international students who were able to stay enrolled, which Feigenbaum credits as a reason why the decline in international students was not as steep.
“This immediate challenge for international students can have long-term consequences for themselves and the academic communities that rely on them the institute wrote in its report. This implies financial implications, including a reduced collection of tuition and fees for institutions, particularly those with high international enrolment rates.
At UT-Austin, the revenue stream is not as relevant, Feigenbaum said.
“Like our domestic students, we look at our international students. They contribute to the student body’s diversity. … In terms of the fact that (international students) could not come for one reason or another, it was very difficult for the university. but it was more of a tone of a disappointment than finance,” Feigenbaum said.” “All of our institutions have been affected, but we do not qualify for that.”