40% Of American Universities Report Drop In International Applicants

A coalition of six higher education groups launched a study to address concerns about prospective international students in the U.S.

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Mar 17, 2017 at 2:33 PM ET

As the Trump administration continues to make the U.S. a hostile place for foreigners, an increasing number of international students may be taking their academic aspirations elsewhere.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. colleges and universities reported a drop in international applicants for the fall of 2017, according to the results of a survey released by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) this week. Two hundred and fifty colleges and universities participated in the survey which was conducted to address the concerns many had about the status of foreign students in the wake of the 2016 election.

“We’ve heard so many anecdotal reports from our member institutions that they were fielding far more questions from students and their families, and we wanted to get a sense if those questions and the concerns were translating into lower application rates,” Melanie Gottlieb, Deputy Director of AACRAO told Vocativ on Friday.

Institutions reported the highest rates of decline in applications from the Middle East. Though the number of students from the Middle East during the 2015/16 academic year only formed 10 percent of the total number of international students in the U.S., 39 percent of institutions saw a drop in undergraduate applications, and 31 percent reported a drop in graduate applications for this fall.

Applications from India and China, which make up 47 percent of the international students in the U.S., have also dropped significantly. Around 25 percent of institutions reported a drop in undergraduate applications from both India and China.

Recruitment professionals for international students reported a higher level of concern for among prospective students and their families, with the most concerns coming from the Middle East.

Despite these numbers, 35 percent of institutions reported an increase in application and 26 reported no change. The number of international students has slowly increased from 100,000 in 1950s, to over 1 million in 2016, so the increase in applicants could be reflecting this general trend. In the 2014/15 academic year, the total number of international students increased by 10 percent, and the next year it increased again by around 7 percent, according to data from Open Doors, a partner of the survey.

It is still too early to tell how the Trump administration will effect actual enrollment numbers. The results of the survey are preliminary, intended to provide a “snapshot” of foreign applications to help institutions prepare for the future. A full report will be released at the end of the month.