Influx of students from India drives US college enrollment up, but the number of students from China is down

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David L. Di Maria, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

(THE TALK) India is up. China is down. Very few US students studied abroad in the first year of the pandemic.

Briefly, these three points represent the key findings of the most recent data released jointly by the US Department of State and the Institute of International Education on November 14, 2022.

The “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange” is published every year at the start of the International Education Week. It offers detailed insights into studying abroad and international students.

Increase in virtual study abroad

This year’s report shows a 91% decrease in the total number of US students studying abroad in the 2020-2021 academic year. The pandemic also prompted higher education institutions to develop more global online learning opportunities. In fact, 62% of colleges offered virtual internships at multinational companies, online collaborative coursework with students abroad, and other experiences.

While virtual learning cannot replace the immersive experiences of studying abroad, it can expand access to other cultures and international perspectives to a larger number of students. Because of this, technology will likely continue to be an important part of international educational programs.

The number of international students is growing in the US

While the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a 45.6% drop in new international students in 2020, the latest data for the 2021-2022 academic year shows that the total number of international students in the US – 948,519 – is gradually recovering. This is reflected in a 3.8% increase from the 914,095 international students in the US in 2020. Still, the number is well below the nearly 1.1 million international students reported in 2018. Much of the recent growth has come from an increase in the number of new international students – 261,961 – up 80% from 2020’s 145,528, but still down 2.14% from 2019’s 267,712.

Students from China and India make up more than half – 52% – of all international students. This is nothing new, but it is worth noting that in the 2021-2022 academic year, Chinese student enrollment fell by 9% and Indian student enrollment increased by 19% year-on-year. This has major implications for the international diversity of US colleges. This is because Chinese students tend to enroll in a range of majors, while most Indian students – 66.4% – major in just a handful of majors: engineering, math and computer science.

Deteriorated relations with China

Over the past decade, US colleges have enrolled more students from China than from any other country. While the outbreak of the global pandemic brought travel between China and the United States to a virtual standstill due to flight restrictions and widespread lockdowns, the decline in Chinese enrollment began years earlier.

Factors contributing to this include Chinese parents’ concerns about their children’s safety in the US, the development of China’s own world-class universities, and the deteriorating relationship between the two countries, which has spread to the higher education sector. In fact, in 2019, the Chinese Ministry of Education warned students not to study in the US due to the risk of visa issues.

College and career draw many out of India

China and India each have around 1.4 billion people, but by 2023 the United Nations predicts that India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country. This continued growth will continue to strain the Indian higher education system, leading to more students studying abroad for higher degrees. At the same time, poor job prospects at home are driving many Indian students to pursue academic and professional paths away from India. This is especially true in high-paying, high-growth areas like computers and information technology.

Other factors contributing to the rise from India include a change in tone from the US government. The Biden administration is working to re-establish the US as a welcoming destination for international students by enacting reversals of Trump-era immigration policies. These policies caused uncertainty and fear among international students. The Biden administration has also prioritized student visa processing in India.

I’m looking forward to

The Institute of International Education also released data from a Fall 2022 Snapshot survey that includes responses from more than 600 U.S. colleges and universities. The results indicate a 7% increase in newly enrolled international students.

While the US State Department continues to prioritize student visas in India by adding more staff and streamlining the process, Chinese visa approvals tend to be lower than in years past, although it’s difficult to pinpoint a single factor as the reason. A further decline in Chinese students poses major challenges for the US, its universities and the communities in which they are based. Because, in addition to the $32 billion that international students collectively contribute to the US economy, the friendships and cultural insights they develop while studying at local colleges serve to further US foreign policy in the form of positive US-US relations and other countries.

With U.S. college student numbers forecast to decline across much of the country, college recruiters will increase the reach of international students to fill empty spots. However, whether recruiting international students alone can fill these empty spots remains to be seen.

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: down-193679.