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International Student Enrollment in US Drops by 72%: Report


International student enrollment in the US dropped by a whopping 72 percent during the 2020-2021 school year, according to a study conducted by immigration expert Boundless.

Citing data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the organization revealed only 1.25 million international students studying in the US last year. This is 17.86 percent lower than the 2019-2020 academic year.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been cited as a major factor in the decline, Boundless pointed out that international student enrolment in the US had been decreasing even before the health crisis began.

Additional reasons for the decline were visa delays and denials, restrictive immigration policies under the former Trump administration, and tough competition from colleges in other countries.

The countries with the most students enrolled in the US last year were China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Brazil, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and Mexico.

‘Enrollment Now Increasing’

Based on the study, 43 percent of colleges reported an increase in international student applications for the school year 2021-2022. Boundless explained that the rising number might be because a new administration is in power, and the virus has become less of a threat.

Institute of International Education Head of Research, Evaluation, and Learning, Mirka Martel, also said universities are preparing for a “strong recovery” in international education enrollment for the fall semester.

“We anticipate the recovery to come in phases, tied to vaccinations and travel guidelines. But there is definitely a concerted effort by US higher education institutions to reopen their campuses and encourage all students, including international students, to return to in-person study,” she stated in a press release.

Additional Findings

Boundless found that international students are economic drivers, contributing $38 billion to the economy and supporting over 400,000 jobs during the 2019-2020 school year.

Among the colleges with the highest number of international students in 2020 were New York University, Northeastern University – Boston, and University of Southern California.

Furthermore, engineering, math and science, and business management were reportedly the top fields of study for international students.

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