U.S. colleges see enrollment decline in international students

Fewer international students are taking college courses at American colleges and universities, according to a report released Monday.

Enrollment declined by nearly 2%, to 1,075,496 international students, for the 2019-20 school year, the report by the Institute of International Education and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs found.

Early indications shows the coronavirus pandemic is having a negative impact on enrollment this school year. A survey by researchers and IIE and nine colleges found enrollment is down 16% for the fall semester. The survey was based on information from 710 schools. The data used to compile the 2019-20 school year findings was based on more than 2,900 schools.

Another troubling data point: new international student enrollment declined for the fourth consecutive year. The report said 267,712 new international students took college courses last school year. The total was 300,743 for the 2015-16 school year.

Many higher education leaders and college officials worry about an enrollment decline because those students are more frequently involved in groundbreaking research projects. They also often pay full tuition.

The report’s authors, though, took away several positives from the findings, such as the 0.6% decline of new international students was lower than in past years and there were more than 1 million of those students taking courses here for fifth consecutive year.

More than 24,000 international students took courses at various Georgia colleges and universities last school year, a 2.7% increase from the prior school year. Georgia’s total enrollment was 12th nationally, according to the report. The bulk of those students are taking courses at Georgia Tech, Savannah College of Art & Design, Emory University, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia.

More than one-half of international students in the U.S. are from China and India. Nearly 35% are Chinese and 18% are from India, the report found.