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International Student Numbers Decline – Inside Higher Ed

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A survey found that new international enrollments dropped by 43 percent this fall. It also provides the first glimpse of the effects of the pandemic on international exchange and insight into pre-pandemic trends.

The total number of international students studying at U.S. universities, whether from within the U.S. or online from abroad, decreased by 16 percent this fall, while enrollments of new international students decreased by 43 percent, according to a new survey of more than 700 colleges conducted by 10 major higher education organizations.

The survey provides a first look at how hard international enrollments have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey found that one in five international students are studying online from outside the U.S. Ninety percent of responding institutions reported student deferrals, collectively reporting that nearly 40,000 international students have deferred their studies to a future term.

“We’ve never had a decrease like that,” said Allan E. Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, one of the organizations that conducted the survey. “What we do know is when pandemics end, there’s tremendous pent-up demand. All of our records show in the past that when it’s safe to resume travel, we’re dealing with surges of students that have deferred, that set their plans aside, that were granted deferments and want to come. I think there’s no reason to suspect that at the end of this pandemic we won’t see the same thing.”

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