Posted on November 20, 2020

New International Student Enrollment Plunges 43% This Fall

Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2020

The number of new international students at U.S. campuses plummeted by 43% this fall, according to an early snapshot that illustrates just how hard colleges and universities were hit by the pandemic and a flurry of shifting directives from the Trump administration.

Overall, enrollment of foreign students fell by 16%, according to a survey of more than 700 schools conducted this fall by 10 higher education associations. More comprehensive figures for fall 2020, representing results from nearly 3,000 schools, will be released at this time next year.

The figure includes foreign students on U.S. campuses and those studying online, either from the U.S. or overseas.


According to the snapshot survey, 20% of international students are studying online from abroad this fall. {snip}


Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said the decline this fall was “staggering but, unfortunately, not surprising.”

Mr. Mitchell referenced the devastating impact the pandemic has had on travel and said, “Well before the pandemic struck, a climate of harsh rhetoric on immigration and concrete actions taken by the Trump administration, such as the travel ban and slower visa processing times, helped fuel the perception that this country is no longer a welcoming place for study and research for outstanding students and scholars from across the globe.”


In the past year, the Trump administration has proposed and enacted new policies severely restricting who can qualify for an H-1B visa—the primary pathway for international students to remain in the U.S. to work and eventually become permanent residents—along with new rules on who qualifies for a student visa and how long it remains valid.

The Institute of International Education’s comprehensive tally of 2019-2020 international student enrollment data, also released Monday, showed a 0.6% drop for new students, marking the fourth straight year of decline.

Schools reported a 1.8% decline in overall international enrollment for the 2019-2020 academic year, to 1.08 million. It was the first drop in more than a decade. {snip}