U.S. Universities Look For International Student Enrollment To Recover This Fall
Will enrollment of international students at U.S. colleges and universities bounce back in the upcoming academic year? That’s a question being asked across the higher education landscape right now, as a new report in the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s COVID -19 Snapshot Survey Series, points to increasing optimism for a recovery.
The new IIE data, contained in a report entitled Preparing for the Future: The Path Forward for International Education Exchange, indicate that the vast majority of U.S. institutions intend to bring students back to campus, with 86% planning some type of in-person study for fall 2021 (62% plan a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes; 24% plan exclusively in-person classes). None of the reporting institutions intends to offer virtual instruction only.
Those plans for the fall mirror what was already occurring on campuses throughout the U.S. during the spring, 2021 semester, as rates of the virus began to fall and vaccination rates were increasing.
More than half of all institutions reported that the majority of their international students attended classes in person at some point during the spring semester. Baccalaureate colleges were more likely to have the majority of students attending classes in person (64%), whereas only 37% of community colleges enrolled the majority of their students in in-person coursework.
“Universities are prepping for a strong recovery in international education enrollment as they emerge from the pandemic,” said Mirka Martel, IIE’s Head of Research, Evaluation and Learning. “We anticipate the recovery to come in phases, tied to vaccinations and travel guidelines. But there is definitely a concerted effort by U.S. higher education institutions to reopen their campuses and encourage all students, including international students, to return to in-person study.”
The survey asked respondents to assess the impact of the coronavirus on U.S. higher education institutions and global student mobility to and from the United States. It’s based on data collected from 414 higher education institutions between April 15 and May 5, 2021. The respondents included institutions in the IIE Network, with more than 7,000 professional members at 1,300 higher education institutions around the world, and respondents to the Open Doors 2020 Report on International Educational Exchange.
Other key findings include:
- International Student Applications Are Up: 43% of institutions reported an increase in their international student applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. But the status of applications varied by institutional type. While 59% of doctoral universities saw application increases, 58% of community colleges reported declines. That pattern duplicates what’s generally been seen throughout the pandemic – attendance at community colleges has been the most adversely affected of any higher education sector.
- Recruitment Remains a Priority: Most U.S. colleges and universities (77%) continue to fund outreach and recruitment of international students at the same levels or higher than previously. The majority are relying on online recruitment events (73%), working with current international students on other campuses (68%), and social media (65%).
- Universities Are Increasing Their Supports For International Student: For example, many have streamlined their application and admissions processes. More than half (57%) reported allowing online testing instead of in-person testing, and 48% of institutions now waive standardized testing requirements in place of other credentials. Many institutions reported increasing services such as crisis management, special housing and financial aid to help international student cope with pandemic-related emergencies.
- Vaccination Policies Are Still Being Refined: Vaccination requirements for fall 2021 are still in flux at many universities, in part because of political pressure in several states for institutions to not mandate vaccines and in part because of institutional indecision about what policy to put in place for the fall. Only 14% of institutions reported a current vaccine requirement. Less than half (45%) do not plan to require a vaccine before students arrive on campus. More than half (64%) plan to offer Covid-19 vaccines for students, faculty, and staff on campus.
- Prospects for Study Abroad Are Also Looking Up: After facing overwhelming obstacles this past year from the pandemic and attending travel restrictions, study abroad is looking to rebound. About 50% of institutions anticipate an increase in study abroad numbers for 2021-2022. This represents a major turnaround from last year, when 97% of institutions anticipated declines. In fact, through creative programming, many schools have been able to sustain some form of study abroad. More than half of reporting institutions indicated offering global education experiences of some type in summer 2021.
- In-Person Study Abroad Is Recovering: Almost half (49%) of institutions are planning for in-person study abroad for fall 2021, and 54% are anticipating doing so by spring 2022. Only 2% have cancelled study abroad programming at this point in time.
Earlier this week, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released its final spring, 2001 enrollment report showing that overall college enrollment fell to 16.9 million, down more than 600,000 students – or 3.5% – from a year ago. That one-year decline was the largest spring semester enrollment decrease since 2011, but the report did not include figures specifically for international students.
Early indications from other sources suggest that after three years of flat or falling international applications, 2021-2022 is shaping up to be a good year, with interest from foreign students picking up once again.
Compared to 2019-20, the volume of international applicants has increased by about 9% this year according to data from the Common App, as of January 22. Most of the top “sending” countries are showing increases, with the notable exception of China, the leading source of international students. But that decrease has been more than offset by substantial increases from countries like India, Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.
Part of the reason for the recovery could be what’s been labeled a “Biden bump,” a result of the more welcoming signs the Biden administration has sent to foreign students compared to the policies of the Trump administration. Whether the “bump” will be sustained depends on several factors involving the status of the pandemic and the rate of vaccinations in host and sending countries and on U.S. travel restrictions for the remainder of the year.
One policy that could facilitate more and safer internationalization would be for institutions to require vaccinations of both international students and domestic students who want to do in-person study abroad. It would probably face less political blowback than a campus-wide vaccine mandate, and it’s likely to be consistent with international travel guidelines.
Founded in 1919, IIE is committed to the premise that “international exchange could make the world a safer and more interconnected place.” It works with corporate, government and foundation partners worldwide to design and manage scholarship, study abroad, workforce training and leadership development programs.
Source : www.forbes.com/