Drop-in International Enrolment in US Universities Amid a Pandemic

For the first time in the US educational landscape, there has been a sharp decline in international students enrolling to study in USA in fall 2020. Across all the Masters and Doctoral programs, the reduction has been reported at 39% among 326 US Colleges and Universities. The Asian, Middle East, and North African regions have faced the maximum decline.

However, this should not be confused with any decreased US education demand among international students. The total number of enrollment applications was higher than that of 2019 by 3%. Still, the pandemic altered these students’ plans, who either chose to defer their programs or dropped their idea of pursuing overseas education altogether. Had the circumstances been expected, the enrolments would be higher than the previous year.

Among all foreign students who study in USA, Chinese and Indian students make the most of the population of international students. In fall 2020, around 70% of the total number of applications received from these countries. And subsequently, the highest rate of deferment was also reported from the same countries. As compared to 2019, the enrolment of Indian students decreased by 66%, whereas for Chinese students, it fell by another 37%. It has been problematic for the US Universities as they heavily rely upon Indian and Chinese markets for international students’ enrolment.

Deferrals have significantly impacted some Institutes, where the count jumped by 20 times the usual number. Master’s program experienced significant deferrals, and the explanation is that the students are planning to pursue their studies in-person. They believe that once the government eases the restrictions, they could be physically present in the University for higher studies.

Another reason that troubles these higher education institutes in the US is that all these deferrals would apply for enrollment in the next semester and if the University would handle the influx. There is a state of uncertainty about how the institutes and authorities will respond and prepare themselves for the incoming international students in the future.

The demand to study in USA among international students is intact; however, they prefer face-to-face learning over the online instruction mode. The country must prepare itself for the challenges that include uplifting restrictions to be lifted and then accommodating the surging enrolments in the future. One out of five students in US graduate programs is an international student, and it goes up to every second student in science and engineering programs. Therefore, the country is reliant upon international students and will surely devise measures to ensure their well-being and fulfill their future demands.

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