US foreign student numbers drop

AP
The number of foreign students going to US colleges and universities continued to fall last year but the Trump administration says the drop should be blamed on high tuition costs.
AP

The number of foreign students going to US colleges and universities continued to fall last year, according to a new report, but the Trump administration says the drop should be blamed on high tuition costs and not students’ concerns over the nation’s political atmosphere.

An annual report from the Institute of International Education found that the number of newly enrolled international students dipped by 1 percent in fall 2018 compared with the year before. It follows decreases of 7 percent and 3 percent in the previous two years, which were the first downturns in more than a decade.

The downturn is a worry for universities that have come to rely on tuition from foreign students, who are typically charged higher rates. Some schools have blamed President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against immigrants for driving students away but officials of the State Department, which pays for the annual report, dismissed the idea.

Caroline Casagrande, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said students are deterred by the high cost to attend US schools.

She said the downturn is tied to students who were applying to college during the Obama administration, and that the numbers appear to be rebounding under Trump.

“What we’ve seen today is a dramatically better picture compared to last year’s declines,” Casagrande said.

“The Trump administration has dedicated more resources than ever to international student mobility.”

While fewer new students are coming, the study found that more are staying for professional training after they graduate.

More than 220,000 were granted permission to stay for temporary work through a federal program, an increase of about 10 percent over fall 2017. China continued to send more students than any other country, followed by India and South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

But booming years of growth from China have leveled off.

The number of overall Chinese students in the country ticked up by less than 2 percent and some campuses have seen major decreases in Chinese enrolments.

The number of Chinese students at the University of Alabama, for example, has decreased by 43 percent over the past two years, to 266, according to the university’s annual enrolment report.

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