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Survey: International Student Enrollment

Survey: International Student Enrollment
At U.S. Colleges Leveling Off This Fall

Educators urge national policy on international education

The results of a snapshot survey by several higher education and international education organizations released recently suggest a leveling off of overall international student enrollments at U.S. colleges and universities this fall.

Thirty-four percent of respondents reported an increase in overall international student enrollments compared with last year, while 33 percent reported a decline. At institutions with more than 1,000 international students, 43 percent of respondents reported a decline in overall numbers, while 33 percent reported an increase. Among those institutions that enroll both undergraduate and graduate students, those that reported a decline indicated that it was more evident at the undergraduate level.

At the same time, the survey suggested some growth in the number of new international students. Forty percent of survey respondents reported that their numbers of new international students rose this year when compared to last year, while 34 percent reported that new international enrollments had stayed about the same and 26 percent reported a decline. Among the respondents that enroll more than 1,000 international students, about half (51 percent) reported an increase in new international students over last year.

“While this latest survey suggests some positive signs, the fact remains we have not yet been able to return to a situation of growth in the overall numbers,” says NAFSA: Association of International Educators executive director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson. “For the sake of our ability to promote fundamental national interests, this must change. In order to lead in today’s world, to compete successfully in the sciences and technology and to engage the global community, we urgently need a national policy on international education.”

The survey indicates that new international student enrollments from selected major sending countries appear mostly unchanged over last year, with some notable exceptions: More institutions reported increases than declines in the number of new students from China (29 percent reported increases, while 20 percent reported declines) and Korea (36 percent reported increase, while 17 percent reported declines). The survey also indicates declines in enrollments of new international students from countries including Indonesia (20 percent reported a decline and 13 percent reported an increase) and Pakistan (20 percent reported a decline and 14 percent reported an increase).

The online survey of nearly 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities was conducted in October by the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), the Institute of International Education, NAFSA and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

A recent report released by CGS indicates that international student admissions to U.S. graduate schools increased by 3 percent between 2004 and 2005, despite a 5 percent decline in applications by prospective international graduate students this spring. CGS further reports that while total international graduate enrollments are still down this year, first-time international graduate student enrollment has increased 1 percent over last year. These findings are consistent with the apparent growth in the numbers of new international students indicated in the 2005 joint enrollment survey. Overall, the latest statistics suggest a flattening of international student enrollments, after years of steady increases during the period before 2003. 

The full results of the 2005 snapshot enrollment survey are available at <>.

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