Declining Foreign Enrollment at U.S. Colleges and Universities
In the 2003-04 academic year, the
number of foreign students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities
declined for the first time since 1971-72, according to Institute
of International Educators (IIE). This finding, reported in
IIE's recently released Open Doors 2004 survey, is
the latest in a series of troubling developments involving
international students in the U.S. A survey issued by NAFSA:
Association of International Educators shed light on other
trends: continuing international undergraduate enrollments
and new graduate student enrollments appear to be especially
affected by the decline, and although there are indications
that visa delays are less of a problem this year than last,
they continue to be identified as a major factor in the falling
rates of foreign enrollment. Other significant factors include
rising tuition costs in the U.S., increasing competition from
institutions abroad, and the perception that the U.S. is no
longer a welcoming environment for international students.
Findings from the IIE Open
Doors 2004 Survey
- The number of international students
enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions decreased
by 2.4 percent in 2003-04--the first absolute decline
in foreign enrollments since 1971-72.
- Undergraduate enrollments of
foreign students in the U.S. decreased by almost 5 percent.
- The undergraduate declines were
partially offset by an increase in the total number of graduate
student enrollments, which increased by 2.5 percent in 2003-04.
- The numbers of students
from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia all declined, with
Europe down 5 percent, the Middle East down 9 percent, and
Asia down 3 percent.
Findings from NAFSA Joint Survey
of Foreign Enrollment
- Roughly the same number of institutions
reported decreases in the number of enrolling foreign undergraduates
in 2004 as reported increases; however, 44 percent of institutions
reported a decline in continuing undergraduates, while only
16 percent reported an increase.
- More than half of the responding
doctoral and research institutions reported a decline in
new international graduate enrollments in fall 2004.
- Among institutions that indicated
a decline in either new or continuing international undergraduate
student enrollment, 40 percent indicated that visa delays
and denials were the top factor, while 20 percent noted
a decrease in number of applications.
- Forty percent of campuses
experiencing a decline in new or continuing international
graduate students cited visa delays and denials as the most
important reason for the decline, but the campuses with
the largest foreign enrollments cited visa delays considerably
less, suggesting that international competition and the
drop in applications are equally important factors.
More information about the
Doors report is available on IIE's Web site. Information
NAFSA's recent survey, including a press release and a
summary of results, is also available online.
- 572,509 international students studied
in the U.S. in 2003-04.
- India is the leading country of origin
for international students, with 79,736 students in the
- The most popular fields of study
for international students are business and management (19
percent), engineering (17 percent), and mathematics and
computer sciences (12 percent).