US universities’ international student applications on the up

Two-thirds of institutions responding to IIE survey report increase in interest

June 23, 2022
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More than two-thirds of US colleges and universities reported an increase in international student applications for the coming academic year, up from barely two-fifths a year earlier, according to an annual survey.

The data were compiled by the Institute of International Education, which called them a sign of normalcy in overseas arrivals after the sharp enrolment decline and initial rebound during the first two years of Covid.

“Over time,” the IIE said in announcing the findings, “we have seen the resilience of international educational exchange, confirming that students want to travel abroad.”

The IIE, a non-profit promoter of cross-border higher education, said its survey data came from 559 institutions, representing about half of all international students in the US.

The recovery in international students, it said, was accompanied by an increase in in-person solicitations. After travel shutdowns early in the pandemic, some 43 per cent of US institutions are now back to making recruitment trips, the IIE said.

US students also have resumed going abroad, with more than 80 per cent of institutions saying that their study abroad numbers for the 2022-23 year will be higher than during the past year, the IIE said.

The IIE also described a complicated situation as US universities face the question of online teaching. That became a politically difficult situation in the early days of Covid when the Trump administration threatened international students with deportation if their campuses – as nearly all did – adapted to pandemic restrictions by moving to online teaching.

Under pushback from universities, the administration agreed to give existing international students waivers from usual visa limits involving the online portion of their studies. New international students aren’t being given that same flexibility for this coming academic year, but they are allowed in general to keep their visas while taking hybrid courses.

In that environment, the IIE said, only two-thirds of US institutions are allowing international students the option of deferment to spring 2023, down from a level of 77 per cent in spring 2021. Only one-third of the surveyed US campuses are letting foreign students study online until they can take classes in person, down from 47 per cent in spring 2021, it said.

The IIE survey also found that US colleges and universities continue to recruit students from Ukraine and Russia, with most institutions offering those from Ukraine time extensions to account for travel delays.

Nearly 45 per cent of US institutions reported hosting students from Ukraine in spring 2022, and 55 per cent reported hosting students from Russia. Yet fewer than 10 per cent of US universities reported having an institutional partnership in Russia, and most of those have suspended it because of the war, the IIE said.

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