Are International Students Scared of the US?

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Four in 10 colleges are seeing drops in applications from international students amid pervasive concerns that the political climate might keep them away.

Nearly 40% of U.S. colleges are seeing a precipitous decline in applications from international students, and international student recruitment professionals report “a great deal of concern” from students and their families about visas and perceptions of a less welcoming climate in the U.S., according to a survey conducted in February by multiple higher education groups.

The survey was conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the Institute of International Education, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and NACAC’s internationally focused subgroup, International ACAC. More than three-quarters of institutions responding to the survey — 77 percent — are concerned about yield, that is, how many applicants accept an admission offer and enroll.

Many universities responding to the survey also reported drops in applications from China and India, respectively the top two countries from which international students in the U.S. hail. The two countries, together, account for nearly half of all international students in the U.S.

At the same time, universities reported hearing concerns from students and families, particularly those from the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. The press release about the findings notes that the most frequently cited concerns are:

  • “Perception of a rise in student visa denials at U.S. embassies and consulates in China, India and Nepal.”
  • “Perception that the climate in the U.S. is now less welcoming to individuals from other countries.”
  • “Concerns that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, especially around the ability to travel, re-entry after travel and employment opportunities.”
  • “Concerns that the executive order travel ban might expand to include additional countries.”

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