Most Int’l Students in US are from Asia but Global Student Mobility Industry Faces Challenges

International student enrollment has been going down in the United States since. 2016, costing the US economy $11.8 billion and more than 65,000 jobs, according to estimates from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, an international association of professional educators. 

International students contributed $39 billion to the US economy in 2018. They created jobs, driven research, enriched classrooms, strengthened national security, and became America’s greatest foreign policy assets.  To be more specific, the 2017-2018 academic year saw international students creating or supporting more than 455,000 jobs. That’s three jobs created for every seven international students who chose to study here.  

Students are also known to pay for corporate housing as American homes may have requirements that a foreign student cannot possess — history of rental, employment, social security number, to name a few. Why are international students relevant to America?

International education is the fifth-largest U.S. service sector export.

And yet there’s a 6.6 percent decline in new international student enrollments. The prior year’s decline was 3.3 percent. It marks the first time America has seen a two-year decline, according to the U.S. Department of State Open Doors® report, published by the Institute of International Education.

It turns out that international students and scholars feel less safe and less welcome in the United States than the previous year surveyed. University and industry leaders think  anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies affect many potential students.

Where are they going? Competitors like Canada, China, and Australia are recruiting and attracting more international students and scholars and benefiting at the expense of the United States. 

Rachel Banks, director of public policy at NAFSA, was quoted by CNN as saying, “There’s many variables, but largely it’s been the policies and rhetoric from the current administration that’s really driven the numbers to move in that direction.” 

International students feel increasingly unsafe in America, NAFSA survey data show. At California State University Northridge reported that the decrease in international students between 2016 to 2019 resulted in a 26 percent revenue loss of about $6.5 million.

But student enrollment is still high. Most international students in the U.S. come from across Asia accounting for 66 percent of all international students in the United States in 2015/16. Since 2001/02, students from China and India have accounted for the largest international student populations in the United States.

In 2015/16, Chinese students reached a high of 328,547 students, comprising 32 percent of all international students in the U.S. and far exceeding those from any other country for the seventh consecutive year. Indian students in the United States totaled 165,918, growing by 25 percent in 2015/16, marking a second year of high growth.

Meanwhile, European students comprised 9 percent of international students in the United States during the 2015/16 academic year, reaching almost 92,000 students and inching towards the 2001/02 peak of over 95,000 students from Europe.

The United States, United Kingdom, China, France, and Australia rank as top host destinations of international students globally and collectively host an estimated two-thirds of all international students, according to various sources pulled by the IIE Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact’s study, “A World on the Move.”

The rise of nationalism around the world has played a significant role in the hesitance of international students to study abroad. This and more is the result of a study by the It highlights key developments influencing mobility in higher education in the United States and globally. 

Many traditional host destinations that have typically attracted large numbers of students and scholars from around the world are turning inward. About 83 percent of visa application processes are delayed or rejected compared to 34 percent in 2016. 

However, the international education community in the U.S. is coming together to  develop joint strategies and outreach to underscore the value of international education even further. U.S. institutions, in particular, have reportedly launched coordinated efforts to emphasize to international students that they are still welcome in the U.S. 

The year 2020 bears watching.