International students in America

December 9, 2020

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The number of new international students enrolling in American schools is dropping. The drop in enrollment for international students has happened over the past few years, but worsened significantly starting in 2019.

The trend continued in this fall 2020 semester with international enrollment diving 16%, according to CNBC. Losing international students does not bode well for any academic institution, and could also have larger ramifications. Academic institutions across the country and the American economy feel the effects of decreasing international student enrollment.

Universities will be hit the hardest as enrollment for international students decreases. These academic institutions rely on international students both for total enrollment numbers and for revenue. According to the site Educationdata, international students make up 5.5% of total enrollment at American universities.

According to the site Educationdata, international students make up 5.5% of total enrollment at American universities.”

All facets of education; undergraduate, graduate, and Optional Practical Training have seen a decline in numbers over the past four years, with the decline dropping significantly in 2019 and 2020. The Optical Practical Training program allows international students the opportunity to stay in the United States for a period of time after graduation, which helps draw international students to the country. The decline in this, along with undergraduate and graduate students, causes universities to lose money.

American universities have already reported losing billions of dollars due to the decline, which has negative ramifications for American students and for funding for higher education programs. Most international students pay full tuition for their college of choice, which helps to lower tuition for American students. According to Forbes, international students pay an average of $22,000 for tuition compared to the $8,000 in state and $19,000 out of state American students pay.

International students usually take the hit when universities raise tuition, shielding domestic students from having to pay more. If the decline in international students continues, domestic students could be forced to pay more whenever their universities raise tuition and fees. Funding for high tech STEM research at the graduate level also relies on international students. International students fill the need for students in STEM fields, allowing universities to fund research and infrastructure to keep their programs viable. 

The United States economy is supported by international students, as they contribute billions of dollars to the economy each year in addition to supporting American jobs. A study done by NAFSA, which is an association of international educators, found that international students contributed $38.7 billion dollars to the United States economy in 2019.

The vast majority of international students rely on personal or familial support to pay for their education, which brings money from foreign nations into the United States. This money supports American jobs, on and off campuses. A NAFSA study found that 415,996 American jobs are supported by the money international students bring into the American economy. In the midst of the pandemic, international students have contributed to the many local economies they reside in. Many of these students are staying on campus instead of returning home, and when they do they support local businesses. 

The decline of international students started before the pandemic, but COVID exacerbated the problem looming over American universities. Universities across the country, including many of the top American universities rely on international students, and their decline in enrollment has damaging effects on those institutions. Less international students means less money for universities to attempt to keep tuition costs stagnant while improving their research and infrastructure on campus. The decline also has a larger impact off campus, as it affects the American economy. International students support the American economy via tuition costs, housing, and living expenses as they study at American universities. The COVID-19 vaccine as well as potential new policies supporting international students in America are promising solutions to the decrease in international enrollment.

 

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