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International Graduate Admissions Decline for First Time in Five Years, U.S. Student Applications and Admissions Increase

With colleges and universities across the U.S. welcoming students back to their campuses this month, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) has reported that offers of admission from U.S. graduate schools to prospective international students fell 3 percent from 2008 to 2009, the first decline since 2004. This decline stood in contrast to findings on domestic student admissions trends with domestic applications at graduate schools showing a median 8 percent increase. Offers of admission to U.S. students grew by a median 2 percent.

The annual CGS survey report on admissions trends, released today, shows that more than half of responding institutions reported a decrease in international offers of admission. There were 16 percent declines in offers to students from both India and South Korea, after offers to students in each country fell 2 percent last year.

“The decline in admissions of international students this year, after several years of slowing growth, is a concern for U.S. graduate education,” CGS President Debra W. Stewart said.

Although the survey also found a final one-year 4 percent increase in international applications, the total number of international applications received in 2009 remains 5 percent under 2003 levels. This year, growth in U.S. applications was broader than growth in international applications. While 75 percent of graduate schools received more applications from prospective U.S. students in 2009 than 2008, only 55 percent received more international applications. Institutions were also more likely to report growth in admission offers to U.S. applicants than to international students.

“For the past few years growth in first-time graduate enrollment has been driven by international students. However, the fact that so many schools reported strong growth in admissions to U.S. students this year may signal a reversal of that trend,” Stewart added.

The changes in admissions of prospective international students differ by country of origin, field of study and institution type. While the admission offer declines was fueled by the sharp decreases for students from India and South Korea, offers to students from China jumped  13 percent, marking the fourth year in a row of double-digit growth. On the other hand, admissions in all three of the most popular fields of study for international students—engineering, physical sciences, and business—declined by at least 4 percent.  

Doctoral universities decreased international student admission offers by 2 percent, compared with a 9 percent decline at master’s-level institutions. Despite the overall decline, offers of admission increased by 4 percent at the institutions with the 10 largest international enrollments.

Domestic applications and offers of admissions varied by type of institution as well. Similar to international trends, 84 percent of doctoral universities reported an increase in U.S. applications, while just 58 percent of master’s-level institutions reported domestic application increases. Doctoral universities were also more likely than master’s-level institutions to report an increase in offers to domestic students, 62 percent to 52 percent.  


The CGS report and previous CGS international admissions surveys are posted at

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