admissions officers

Admissions officers spy decline in international applicants

New survey reveals worries, concerns over trend of fewer international students enrolling in U.S. institutions

More than half of admissions officers said they are concerned that a decline in international applications could become a nationwide trend, according to a Kaplan Test Prep survey.

Though 63 percent of the 392 admissions officers surveyed were alarmed at the implications the decline could have for higher ed as a whole, just 32 percent said they anticipate a decline in the number of international applicants to their own schools.

Additionally, more than one quarter of admissions officers (28 percent) say they are concerned about their school losing American and international students to colleges in Canada and elsewhere.

According to the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit that promotes international education and education access around the globe, just over 1 million international students were studying in the United States in the 2015-2016 academic year, a record high and seven percent increase over the previous year.

(Next page: The largest sources of international students)

The largest sources of international students are China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. While international students represent just 5 percent of all students in the United States, some top colleges and universities boast of international populations of 15 percent or higher.

Admissions officers who expressed concern about the larger trend of declining international student enrollment cited both cultural and financial reasons for the decline.

Those surveyed offered various comments:
• “I think it’s more of a loss for all prospective students, not just international students. Students who would have had the opportunity to learn from different students with different upbringings and cultural backgrounds won’t have this.”
• “International students provide a different kind of atmosphere on campus. Many of our U.S.-born students can’t travel overseas, so this is a way for them to meet others from diverse backgrounds.”
• “We survive on this program. We rely on these students coming into the country.”
• “It’s something we worry about. We want students to come without barriers.”

“A majority of colleges are concerned that the current environment is causing a decline in applications from international students across the country, though interestingly, only a third anticipate the decline happening at their own schools. Colleges recognize that today’s political climate presents unique challenges and are likely adjusting their recruitment strategies accordingly,” says Yariv Alpher, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of market research. “But notably, there is a broad range of opinions across schools nationwide, which represent the diversity of views that most colleges seek to cultivate on their own campuses.”

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Laura Ascione

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