Survey: Applications from International Students Decrease Amid Perceptions that US is Less Welcoming

intlreportNearly four in 10 colleges have seen drops in applications from international students, and recruitment officials report that families are exhibiting “a great deal of concern” about how their students will be treated in the US, according to early findings from a recent survey of more than 250 US colleges and universities.

The survey — conducted last month by AACRAO in cooperation with NACAC, International ACAC, and three other higher education associations — shows that 39 percent of respondents reported an overall drop in international applications for fall 2017, with the highest number of institutions reporting declines in applications from the Middle East.

Institutions also reported drops in applications from students in India and China. Currently, those two countries are home to nearly half of all international students studying in the US.

“Over the past year, international educators expressed concern that the political discourse surrounding foreign nationals in the US leading up to the November 2016 US presidential election could be damaging to international student recruitment efforts,” AACRAO noted in a release of early findings. “…This report provides a snapshot of foreign applications to US higher education institutions, initiates a dialogue, and should assist institutions as they forecast and prepare for what might lie ahead.”

The full report won’t be available until March 30, but its topline findings are already generating lots of talk within the college admission profession.

According to the survey, 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 US embassies and consulates in China, India, and Nepal.
  • Perception that the climate in the US 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.

See more early findings and read NACAC’s statement opposing President Donald Trump’s most recent travel ban.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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