19 November, 2019
A new report says the number of international students coming to American colleges and universities fell last year, for the third straight year.
The report, from the Institute of International Education, found that the number of newly admitted foreign students dropped by 1 percent in the autumn of 2018, compared to the year before. This follows decreases of 7 percent and 3 percent in the two years before that. Those were the first drops in attendance in more than 10 years.
The decreasing numbers of foreign students is an issue for many schools in the United States that have come to depend on tuition payments from them. Foreigners are usually charged higher amounts than U.S. citizens are.
Some schools blame President Donald Trump's comments about immigrants for keeping students away. However, the State Department, which paid for the new report, dismissed the idea.
Caroline Casagrande works in the department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She said the high cost to attend U.S. schools frightens students. She also said the decrease is linked to students who were seeking admission to college during the presidency of Barack Obama. She added that the numbers appear to be going back up under Trump.
"What we've seen today is a dramatically better picture compared to last year's declines," Casagrande said during a telephone call with reporters. She added that the Trump administration has provided "more resources than ever to international student mobility."
While fewer new international students are coming, the study found that more are staying for specialized training after they finish college. More than 220,000 were given permission to stay for temporary work through a federal program, an increase of about 10% over fall 2017.
China continued to send more students than any other country, followed by India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. However, years of growth from China have leveled off. The number of Chinese students in U.S. schools rose by less than 2%. Some colleges and universities have noted major decreases in Chinese students signing up for classes.
At the University of Alabama, the number of Chinese students has dropped by 43% over the past two years. At the University of Iowa and at Kansas State University, Chinese enrollment fell by about a third in the same period.
Education experts have blamed the drop in Chinese students on several things.
Chinese students have reported difficulty getting U.S. visas in the middle of a trade war between the two nations. Universities in Australia and Canada have worked harder to interest Chinese students in their colleges and universities. Also, some educators say concerns over academic espionage, or spying, have fueled anti-China feelings at U.S. schools.
State Department officials said they are working to ease tensions and persuade Chinese students to study in the United States.
Casagrande said the department is working hard to make sure that Chinese students know they are welcome here. "We want these Chinese students here," she added.
The State Department recently sent a group to China to speak in support of academic exchanges. U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad recently wrote an opinion piece in a Chinese youth publication inviting students to study in the U.S.
The report also found that far fewer students are coming from Saudi Arabia. This began in 2017 when Saudi officials cut back on a program that provided money to study around the world. There were also drops in students coming from South Korea, Japan and Mexico.
The report also noted that growing numbers of students from Asia, Latin America and Africa want to study in the United States. Numbers from Brazil and Bangladesh jumped 10% last year, while Nigeria increased 6%. In recent years, many universities have increased advertising and recruiting efforts in those areas as they look for ways to make up for losses from China.
"More institutions are expanding their outreach in more regions," said Mirka Martel, with the Institute of International Education. "This growth demonstrates how attractive a U.S. education is for students around the world."
I'm Anne Ball.
And I'm Bryan Lynn.
Collin Binkley wrote this story for the Associated Press. Anne Ball adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
tuition – n. money that is paid to a school for the right to study there
dramatic – adj. sudden and extreme
enrollment – n. the act of becoming a member
decline – v. to become lower in amount or less in number
region – n. part of a country or world that is different or separate from other parts in some way
attractive – adj. appealing; having a quality that people like
resource – n. something that provides support or wealth
mobility – n. the condition or quality of being movable