Report: New International Student Enrollments Continue to Decline

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The number of international students studying at US colleges and universities hit an all-time high of 1.09 million during the 2017-18 academic year.

But data captured in the most recent Open Doors report from the Institute of International Educational Exchange (IIE) shows that new international student enrollments continued to fall— a trend first observed three years ago.

“While the overall numbers of international students increased, new student enrollments fell by 6.6 percent in 2017-18,” report authors note in a press release. “…Current gains in the total number of international students are due primarily to increased participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows international students to practice their skills in the United States for up to 12 months during or after they complete their academic programs, or up to 36 months for students who have earned a degree in STEM fields.”

Data from the report paints a very “mixed picture” related to new student enrollments, researchers told Inside Higher Ed.

“The large research institutions, many of them are seeing growth,” Peggy Blumenthal, of IIE, told the news outlet. “The less well-known abroad schools and the schools giving associate degrees are seeing much sharper declines.”

Other top findings from the report include:

  • China and India remain the leading countries of origin for international students, with individuals from the two nations accounting for more than half of all international students studying in the states.
  • One of every three international students in the US is attending school in California, Texas, or New York.
  • The number of American students seeking international educational opportunities continues to grow. Roughly one in 10 US students study abroad during their undergraduate career. More than half of those students complete study programs in Europe.

Explore data from the new report and view NACAC’s international education webpage.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org. 

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