US sees first decline in international student numbers for three decades

November 24, 2004

Brussels, 23 Nov 2004

The number of international students enrolled in US higher education institutions fell by 2.4 per cent in the previous academic year (2003/04) - the first such decline since Richard Nixon was in the White House.

The findings were published in Open Doors 2004, an annual report on international academic mobility published by the Institute of International Education (IIE). The last time foreign enrolment levels dropped was in 1971/72, when the numbers of international students studying in the US was 140,126. Following last year's decline, the number of foreign students currently in the US stands at 572,509.

A closer look at the figures reveals that it is enrolments of undergraduate students which are sharply down. The five per cent drop in international undergraduates was at least partly offset by a 2.5 per cent increase in the number of foreign students enrolled at graduate level. 'These international student enrolment changes were experienced differently by different types of institutions and in different levels and fields of study,' notes the report.

Allan Goodman, President and CEO of IIE, said: 'The decrease in number of international students this year is explained by a variety of factors affecting students differently in different sending countries, and includes a wider range of educational opportunities at home, stiff competition from other host countries, rising US tuition costs, and the complex process of adjustment to tighter screening of visa applicants.'

Patricia Harrison, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said: The temporary decline in student numbers relates to a number of factors, including the need to make sure our borders are secure, but I am confident that both the situation and the number will improve.'

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