The number of foreign students signing up to attend U.S. universities declined for a second straight year in 2017. University administrators blame the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies and nationalistic rhetoric. But the group studying the trend said that’s not the problem.
“We’re not hearing that students feel they can’t come here. We’re hearing that they have choices,” Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, told reporters. “For the first time, we have real competition.”
Despite the schools’ tendency to blame politics for a hit to their bottom line, the countries showing the biggest decline are two of America’s strongest allies: Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Mexico also sent fewer students, while China and India accounted for more than half of foreign students coming to the United States. The decrease in Saudi students followed the country’s decision to cut a program offering scholarships for students studying abroad.
While the United States has lost foreign students, Canada and Australia have gained them. Goodman said that competition should spur U.S. universities to improve recruitment efforts: “The U.S. has real competition. What we have going for us, though, is we have more space and capacity.” —L.J