President's Blog

Some indication of weakening international student interest

I wrote last week about how the immigration policy changes post 9/11 hurt America’s share of the world pool of international students. I also expressed concern that the message we are sending to students from around the world with the recent executive orders banning travelers from seven (now six) predominantly Muslim countries may unfortunately replay the same scenario.

While it is still early to know, new survey data collected by a number of higher education associations indicate that internationally mobile students may be losing interest in coming to the United States for higher education. Of 250 colleges and universities surveyed, 39 percent reported a drop in the volume of applications from international undergraduate and graduate students compared to last year. The declines were particularly large among students in the Middle East and China compared to students from other regions. Just about one-third of institutions reported an increase in the number of applications from international students.

Interest among prospective international students also declined. In a Royall & Company survey of over 2,000 high school students around the world, nearly one-third reported that they now have less interest in studying in the United States. The most common reasons cited by the students are concerns about U.S. politics, travel, and security. The findings of this survey also indicate that the decline is not limited to a few countries but is widespread.

Fortunately, still more than 70 percent of survey respondents believe the United States welcomes global diversity at its college and university campuses. I hope we can build on that and devote our attention to figuring out how to attract more talented students from overseas, not to keep them away.