US colleges report an increase in new international student enrolments, but the total US higher education enrolments are declining

US colleges report an increase in new international student enrolments, but the total US higher education enrolments are declining Education Beyond Borders Podcast

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20-JUL-2022 | After suffering steep losses in new international student enrolments in 2020 and 2021, US colleges are on track for recovery given a surge in applications for degree studies in 2022/23.

Demand is particularly high for master’s and doctoral-level degrees. According to the recent survey conducted in April by the Institute of International Education, roughly three-quarters of master’s colleges and universities and doctoral universities reported a rise in the number of applications from international students.

Most US colleges report an increase in international student enrolments, Verbalists Education
More than 6 in 10 surveyed US colleges and universities are receiving more international student applications for the 2022/23 academic year. Source: IIE

Institutions are working hard to recover their international enrolments. They are committing to recruitment and admissions practices they might not have used to any great extent prior to COVID-19. For example, the use of agents has increased greatly. Now more than two-thirds of colleges are working with agents to help them achieve their international recruitment goals for 2022/23. In addition, a significant proportion of US colleges are offering more scholarships to entice talented students.

Resources used by US colleges to recruit international students for the 2022-23 academic year, Verbalists Education
Top resources used by US colleges and universities to recruit international students for the 2022/23 academic year. Source: IIE

Competition for MBA students is particularly fierce because so many students are enrolling in online MBAs. Ten years ago or even five years ago, online study was viewed very differently but now it has really grown in acceptance. There are schools whose online programs are bringing in a large number of students, which is having an effect on recruitment to on-campus programs. As ICEF Monitor reported recently, US educators enrolled more students in online MBAs than in MBAs delivered in person in 2021.

This year’s positive news for international student numbers contrasts with a longer-term downward pattern of declining college enrolments in the US which was underway before the pandemic started. The pandemic appears to have accelerated the trend of US students opting out of degree studies. Over the past two years, enrolments have fallen by 9.4% overall, which is equivalent to a loss of 1.4 million students across the US college system. High tuition fees for degree studies are at the root of that trend. It now costs students more than USD$50,000 per year for tuition and accommodation at private four-year colleges, and more than USD$20,000 per year at public, in-state colleges.

The cost of tuition in the US is also often significantly higher than tuition for comparable degrees in other major study destinations – and this is recognized by price-sensitive international students. Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands have recovered international enrolments lost in the pandemic more quickly than the US.

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