Decrease in Foreign Student Enrollment Due to Immigration Fears
May 7, 2019
College administrators report that foreign student enrollment is down and for some schools, and it is having a major effect on their tuition income. The Trump administration’s hard line on immigration is making it difficult for schools to attract foreign students to study in the United States. Instead, they are choosing to attend universities in other English-speaking countries, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Smaller Schools are Hit the Hardest
Nationwide foreign students number more than one million and account for $39 billion in revenue. However, this past fall saw nearly a seven percent decline in new foreign students. Second-tier schools in the Midwest were particularly affected by the drop, where low in-state tuition rates were supplemented with the higher rates that foreign students pay. At the University of Central Missouri, international students pay tuition at twice the rate of residents. A drop of more than 1,500 foreign students this year cost the school $14 million in revenue and forced cuts in maintenance, teaching instructors, and student activities, such as the campus newspaper.
Hoping to increase foreign revenues, the University of Akron recently opened an international center staffed with 10 new employees hired to run international programming for the school. Instead, the university has experienced a drop of about 200 international students.
Immigration Policies Affect School Credit Ratings
Since Trump has been in office, U.S. immigration policies have become more restrictive. He famously banned travel from certain countries and visa applications are closely scrutinized. The administration is also trying to change the amount of time students can remain in the country from the current unrestricted stay for study to a fixed maximum period. Additionally, those who overstayed their visas and are deemed to be unlawfully in the United States risk being barred up to 10 years.
Foreign students may also fear they have fewer chances to work in the U.S. in the future due to the Trump administration tightening rules for issuing skilled-worker visas and permanent residency. All the uncertainty surrounding the changes to immigration policies has driven foreign students to enroll in programs elsewhere. Without this source of revenue, American universities are unable to plan or budget their income, leading Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade the credit outlook for higher education from stable to negative. This makes it more expensive for schools to obtain loans to bridge revenue gaps.
According to the Institute of International Education, this is the second consecutive year that new enrollment rates by foreign students are down. The 2017-2018 school year saw a drop of 6.6 percent. Other possible reasons for the decline include a stronger U.S. dollar and cuts in scholarship programs in Saudi Arabia and Brazil.
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