INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS TURN AWAY FROM US

As recently as 2017, international students’ arrival contributed $42.4 billion to the United States economy. No wonder the country could boast of being the top destination for international students followed by the United Kingdom. The prestigious US educational universities and colleges attract students from all over the globe. However, the latest data shows a worrying trend for these institutions. For the past couple of years enrollment of international students in the US is declining. Many critics attribute this negative trend to President Donald Trump’s ascension to power. His ‘America First’ rhetoric, his attempt to impose a ‘Muslim ban’ on seven Muslim-majority countries, and his criticism of China. Allegedly President Trump expressed his concern regarding Chinese students as he believed ‘almost every’ one of those Chinese students studying in the US was a spy. Half of the international students in the US come from China and India. According to US government’s Student and Exchange Visitor.

The country seems to be losing the magnetism that worked for years. Information System (SEVIS) Chinese students comprised 32.5 percent of the total 1.08 million international students in the 2016-17 school year (a total of 350,755 Chinese students were enrolled in US). Although the US administration claimed that during 2017-18 the number of international students increased by 1.5 percent (1.1 million) than the previous year, the fact is that number declined by 6.6 percent. The problem with the US administration’s claims is the way it counted ‘new’ students. The official claim included new as well as continuing students. In reality, enrollment of ‘new’ students was around 272,000 which is close to 10 percent down from a high point of 301,000 in 2015-16. International education experts see a new reality emerging out of international politics that might shuffle students’ destinations in the coming years. Writing for Inside Higher Ed’s “World Views” blog, Hans deWit, the director of Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education, and Philip G Altbach, a research professor and founding director of the center, say they “are convinced that we are now in an era of global instability in international higher education and that the certainties and truisms of the past are no longer applicable. What, for example, would be the fallout of China blocking the study of Chinese nationals in the United States as part of the trade war, or Russia’s

Allegedly President Trump expressed his concern regarding Chinese students as he believed ‘almost every’ one of those Chinese students studying in the US was a spy

Information System (SEVIS) Chinese students comprised 32.5 percent of the total 1.08 million international students in the 2016-17 school year (a total of 350,755 Chinese students were enrolled in US). Although the US administration claimed that during 2017-18 the number of international students increased by 1.5 percent (1.1 million) than the previous year, the fact is that number declined by 6.6 percent. The problem with the US administration’s claims is the way it counted ‘new’ students. The official claim included new as well as continuing students. In reality, enrollment of ‘new’ students was around 272,000 which is close to 10 percent down from a high point of 301,000 in 2015-16. International education experts see a new reality emerging out of international politics that might shuffle students’ destinations in the coming years. Writing for Inside Higher Ed’s “World Views” blog, Hans deWit, the director of Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education, and Philip G Altbach, a research professor and founding director of the center, say they “are convinced that we are now in an era of global instability in international higher education and that the certainties and truisms of the past are no longer applicable. What, for example, would be the fallout of China blocking the study of Chinese nationals in the United States as part of the trade war, or Russia’s

doing so in response to American sanctions? What if Canada would offend the Indian government? All possible, although it looks like the most significant political actions to affect international student flows have been taken by the governments – the US and the UK — that receive the greatest economic benefits from mobility. The key message from all of this is politics play a crucial and increasingly volatile role in international higher education.” Preston Cooper of Forbes presents a different perspective. He believes price hike in tuition fee for international students coming to the United States may also be a culprit. Students from foreign countries have seen a steady rise in tuition for international students in the US. This trend affects their financial health directly. The US colleges and universities rely on international students for their budgets, but it appears they have started expecting a lot more than those students can afford to pay. A Pakistani-American PhD scholar, Ans Irfan, at George Washington University points to yet another possible reason: online courses. He thinks many international students can access online courses and graduate without leaving their country of origin.

Rana Fawad is an educationist and senior journalist based in Washington DC, USA. He can be reached at rafawad@gmail.com.