After years of growth, new international enrollments in US universities have witnessed a downfall with nearly half of the universities reporting a drop in the international student enrollments, according to a new report released earlier this week.

The report titled “Open Doors, 2018” by the State Department and the Institute of International Education highlighted that the new international enrollments in the US Universities for the very first time have dropped by 6.6 percent, a trend accelerating since fall 2016.

Open Doors, 2018 is a comprehensive yearly survey of more than 2,000 colleges and universities in the US and reports foreign student enrollment trends with a one-year delay. This report also presents a “snapshot” survey of more than 500 institutes in relation to their foreign student enrollments rates for the current semester.

According to the report, the institutes that responded to the snapshot survey reported an overall decline of about seven percent in new international enrollments for the current academic year. The report further added that a total of 271,700 international students took admissions this year, in comparison to 290,800 who enrolled last year. However, the total number of international students in the US increased by 1.5 percent in the academic year 2017-2018 to a new high of about 1.09 million.

The findings of the report also highlighted an overall increase in total student ratios enrolled at leading US universities, despite of decline in the new international enrollments. These deviations in the data were thought-to-be a by-product of the Optional Practical Training program, an initiative that allows students to stay back in a country for work purposes after the completion of their studies for a specific time period. 

The report found majority of foreign students hailed from China, with about 363,000 enrolling in the school year 2017-2018.  Behind China, more than 186,000 students were based in India followed by Nepalese students. The number of students from Saudi Arabia declined up to 15.5 percent, in comparison to the previous academic year.

California has the largest number of foreign students with 162,000 enrolling in 2017, while New York stood second in the race with 121,260 students. Out of all American universities, New York University has the largest number of foreign students reaching almost 17,550 for the current study year, followed by University of Southern California with 16,075 in undergraduate degree programs. Almost 383,000 students were studying in graduate degree programs, while 65,630 were enrolled in non-degree programs, the report added.

The findings also highlighted that majority of international students were studying engineering, followed by business studies, mathematics, computer sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and life sciences, while 58.6 percent students were financing their own education.

The report also revealed that according to an estimate, one in 10 American students were studying abroad. Almost 332,727 American students studied abroad in 2016-2017 , marking a 2.3 percent increase. Majority of students pursued education in the United Kingdom trailed by Italy, Spain, France and Germany.

Majority of American students who pursued their education abroad were specialising in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business, social sciences, foreign language, international studies and fine arts. Moreover, a majority of students were enrolled in short programs of almost eight weeks or less, while one third were studying in semester-long programs.

Among the institutes that responded to the results of the survey, almost 68 percent believed that the visa application process, visa denials and delays were the primary factors for the drop in enrollment. Almost 57 percent cited political and social setting of the country, followed by tuition fee expenses and competition from other foreign universities, as the major reasons of this dilemma.

While numerous variables affect the new international enrollment ratios, this new drop, particularly at a time when people involved in the education sector have expressed their concerns on the policies of US President Donald Trump, could probably discourage international students from enrolling in US universities.

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