Is Cost Really the Key Factor in the Decline of New Int’l Enrollments in the US?

open-doors-report-on-international-educational-exchange-56After the latest Open Doors report was released, Allan E. Goodman, president & CEO of the Institute of International Education (IIE), did his level best to spin the statistics by pointing to cost as the overriding factor in the decline of new international enrollments rather than the impact of the Trump Effect.  

While the total number was a record high of 1,095,299 in 2018/29, new student enrollments decreased by 0.9% for the third consecutive year.  Keep in mind that the Open Doors survey is conducted in the fall semester of the previous academic year, which means the data are always a year old when they’re released.  Like many other IIE activities, it is funded by the US State Department.  78.2% of the organization’s 2017 revenue was from “government grants.”

By highlighting cost and ignoring the orange elephant in the room, Goodman is being disingenuous, at best, in the spirit of “whose bread I eat, his song I sing” and, continuing with a culinary theme, not biting the hand that feeds you.  As issues go, cost has been one of the “usual suspects” for a very long time.  You can’t have an honest discussion about a decline in new international enrollments without talking about what Trump and his administration have said and done since he came to power.  The price some organizations and their leaders pay to keep the government-funded spigot flowing.  

The title of this Politico article is spot-on:  Growth in international student enrollment stalls under Trump administration.  Here’s a key excerpt:  Some U.S. college leaders have blamed White House rhetoric, visa delays and global tensions for discouraging overseas students. But officials who released the report downplayed those concerns and pointed to growing competition from abroad as well as the sheer price tag of a U.S. degree.  The truth may hurt at times but it’s far preferable to deflection and dissembling.  Another concern expressed by many parents and students in sending countries is epidemic of gun violence.  

OPT as a Puzzling Piece of the Puzzle

One point about Optional Practical Training (OPT) statistics.  While it’s true that if you subtract them from the total, there were 872,000 international students in the US last year not over 1 million, that number only includes HE not secondary and other enrollments.  If you add international secondary students to the mix, the US is still the world’s leading host of international students, for what that’s worth.   

Shalom (שלום), MAA