New enrollment of foreign students drops for first time in 12 years, survey finds

Experts blame uncertain social, political climate

For the first time in 12 years, the number of new international students enrolling at American institutions has declined, according to data collected by the Institute of International Education from 522 colleges and universities.

New enrollments from abroad fell 3 percent nationwide, the data says, showing that 45 percent of participating campuses reported drops. On the other hand, 31 percent of campuses saw an increase, and 24 percent reported no change. 

The New York Times points out this is the first new class since the election of President Donald Trump. The data shows, however, that the decline began in fall 2016 before Trump even took office. Rajika Bhandari, head of research for the institute, told The Times the decline resulted from a mix of factors, including an uncertain social and political climate in the U.S.

“Concerns around the travel ban had a lot to do with concerns around personal safety based on a few incidents involving international students, and a generalized concern about whether they’re safe," Bhandari said.

The East North Central region that includes Ohio and Indiana reported a 9 percent decrease in new international enrollment. However, Kentucky falls into the East South Central region, which only lost 1 percent this year.

The Institute of International Education argues that international studies benefited the economy in 2016 by spending $39 billion on tuition, room and board and living expense, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"Students continue to be attracted to the high quality and diverse opportunities offered by U.S. colleges and universities," said the institute's President and CEO Allan E. Goodman. "But it is critical for U.S. institutions to set strategic goals and be proactive in reaching out to students and families in a wide range of countries in the coming year, and for the United States to keep its academic doors open to students from all over the world.”

Examine all the data collected from the survey here.

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