International college student enrollment rising after pandemic slide

Angel Cabrera (left), president of Georgia Tech, greets students and families as they check-in during the first day of move-in on the Georgia Tech campus on on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Georgia Tech has about 13,000 out-of-country students, which is more than any college or university in the state. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

caption arrowCaption
Angel Cabrera (left), president of Georgia Tech, greets students and families as they check-in during the first day of move-in on the Georgia Tech campus on on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Georgia Tech has about 13,000 out-of-country students, which is more than any college or university in the state. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Fewer international students took courses in U.S. colleges and universities last school year, but the numbers appear to be improving this fall, according to an annual report released by federal officials Monday.

Officials blamed last year’s decrease — down 15% to 914,095 students during the 2020-21 academic year — on global travel restrictions and other challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

But some statistics suggest a rebound this fall as other countries loosen travel guidelines. Preliminary research shows the total number of international students is up 4% this fall from last year, officials said. There was a reported 68% increase in new international students enrolling for the first time at a U.S. college or university this fall, up from the 46% decline reported last fall.

The research was based on surveys of American colleges and universities done each year by the U.S. State Department and the Institute of International Education.

The University System of Georgia this fall had 22,348 out-of-country students, up significantly from 19,400 in fall 2020. Much of the increase came from international students who enrolled at Georgia Tech, which has 13,431 out-of-country students.

International students make up about 5% of college enrollment nationwide. They typically pay more for their tuition. The bulk of those students come from China and India.

International students contributed $28.4 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2020-2021 academic year, a decline of nearly 27% from the prior academic year largely due to the pandemic, according to a separate report released Monday by the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs: Association of International Educators.

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