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Press Release

Campuses Report Early Indication of International Student Enrollments for Fall 2010

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Survey findings report both new and total international student enrollments are holding steady or increasing slightly

WASHINGTON, DC, November 15, 2010—According to about 700 U.S. campuses responding to a joint survey conducted by eight leading higher education associations, overall enrollments of international students increased this fall at about half (52% or 350) of responding member campuses. Twenty-one percent (137) of the responding institutions experienced declines, and 27% (181) report that overall international student enrollments stayed about the same as last year. Regarding new international student enrollments, the survey indicates that 52% of responding institutions reported an increase for Fall 2010, while 24% reported a decline, and 24% reported level enrollments. The campuses seeing declines noted varied impact of the world financial crisis on both students and host institutions, while those reporting increases cited increased recruitment efforts and the growing reputation and visibility of U.S. campuses abroad.

The survey was conducted online in October 2010 to provide a timely "snapshot" of what U.S. colleges and universities are experiencing with regard to international student enrollment for the current semester. In addition to reporting increases or decreases, educators are also asked to provide comments as to their perception of the reasons for these changes and steps they are taking to attract and retain international students.

This collaborative initiative is separate from the annual Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange produced by the Institute of International Education with support from the U.S. Department of State. Open Doors provides comprehensive statistics and analysis based on detailed data collected throughout the previous year from more than 3,000 U.S. campuses, and the international student figures reported in Open Doors 2010 are for academic year 2009/10. The Fall snapshot survey is an effort by the U.S. higher education community to offer a complementary forward-looking, top-line view of international student enrollment trends contextualized by campus perspectives in the current year.

The Fall 2010 snapshot survey findings, while not comprehensive, suggest that both new and overall international student enrollments are likely to continue to grow at a similar or slightly higher rate of increase as last year. In this year’s survey, a larger percentage of institutions reported that they experienced an increase, and a smaller percentage reported declines, compared to the Fall 2009 snapshot survey.

The Fall 2010 survey asked educators to indicate whether they had seen a change in new enrollments from selected major sending countries. The results indicate that new enrollments from China are increasing significantly, with 58% of institutions reporting increases and only 14% reporting declines (the rest reported level enrollments). For the second year in a row, the number of institutions reporting increases in new students from India is equal to those reporting declines (27% reporting increases and 27% reporting declines). When looking specifically at the largest host institutions (those 125 responding institutions enrolling more than 1,000 students), 39% of responding institutions are reporting a decline for students from India and 37% are reporting an increase. For the fifth year in a row more institutions reported declines than increases in the number of new students from Japan (27% reporting a decline vs. 20% reporting an increase).

More institutions are reporting increases in new students from Europe (35% reporting increases vs. 16% reporting declines) and the Middle East (29% reporting increases vs. 13% reporting declines). Survey respondents were asked to comment separately on enrollments from Saudi Arabia, and 38% reported increases vs. 9% reporting declines. This is consistent with the Saudi government program that began to make scholarship awards for their students to study abroad beginning in Fall 2005. Responding institutions also reported more increases than declines in the numbers of new students from Korea, Brazil, and Iraq.

The major reasons for the reported increases appear to be largely related to continued active recruitment efforts (cited by 31% of responding institutions), the growing reputation and visibility of U.S. campuses abroad (29%), and an increased number of linkages with institutions in other countries. The responding institutions that experienced declines in international student enrollments cited the cost of tuition/fees at U.S. institutions (cited by 16%), followed by the world financial crisis (14%), the visa application process (14%), and home country economic problems (12%) as major reasons for declines at their institutions. Many other respondents indicated reduced recruitment efforts, changing restrictions on international enrollments, and declines in the number or scholarships or available financial aid to international students.

Sixty-one percent (408) of all responding institutions have taken special steps to ensure that the number of international students on their campuses does not decline. These steps included new international programs of collaborations (cited by 32%), followed by new staff or additional staff time devoted to international recruitment (cited by 31%), new funding for international recruitment trips (22%), and new funding for marketing and promotion of programs (16%). Institutions that have devoted more resources for international student recruitment trips seem to have concentrated mainly on Asia, with China by far the most popular recruitment destination. Many institutions also reported increased recruitment in the Middle East. The institutions that did not take special steps mainly cited a lack of funding or resources. Campus responses varied depending on their institutional type. Among Doctoral/Research institutions responding, many more (74%) reported increases than reported declines (11%) in their total number of international students for Fall 2010. Fifty percent of Baccalaureate institutions responding reported increases, with 16% reporting declines; 47% of responding Master's institutions reported increases, while 27% reported declines; and 39% of the responding two-year colleges reported increases in total international student enrollments, while 29% reported declines. Increases and declines include "slight", "some" and "substantial". Responding campuses were not asked to provide actual numbers of students, therefore it is not possible to determine the actual figures of the overall declines or increases.

A total of 688 institutions responded to the survey, including 203 Doctoral/Research institutions, 170 Master’s institutions, 137 Baccalaureate colleges, 142 two-year colleges, 17 Professional/Specialized institutions, and 14 other institutions. Included among these respondents were 125 institutions that enroll more than 1,000 international students, whose responses are also reported out in a separate analysis.

The survey was carried out by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in cooperation with American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), American Council on Education (ACE), Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

The full survey results are available for download from the Open Doors data portal.

Leaders of the associations commented on the survey findings, noting the continued growth in the number of international students enrolled at U.S. institutions, while also urging campuses and the U.S government to continue working hard to sustain the renewed flows of international students.

"The United States continues to host more international students than any other country in the world," said Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education. "Active engagement between U.S. and international students in American classrooms provides students with valuable skills that will enable them to collaborate across cultures and borders to address shared global challenges in the years ahead. America's diverse range of higher education institutions are highly valued in the international marketplace. EducationUSA centers around the world play an important role, helping to promote American higher education and providing international students with information that is free and comprehensive, both online and on the ground, complementing the recruiting efforts of individual campuses."

"We are pleased that for a fourth straight year, more international students are choosing to attend public and private research-intensive institutions in the United States," said Robert M. Berdahl, President of the Association of American Universities. "The increase in both new and total international student enrollments demonstrate the continued interest of students and scholars in receiving the unparalleled educational and training opportunities offered by U.S. research institutions. It also demonstrates the commitment of our universities to seek out the best and brightest students through their international recruitment efforts and their willingness to foster substantive international collaboration and education programs."

"In today’s environment of increasing global student mobility and burgeoning educational markets, it will be critical for the field to have a better understanding of what factors are driving student decision-making worldwide, and what our government and institutions should be doing to attract a robust and diverse pool of international students and scholars, including underserved populations in developing countries," said Marlene M. Johnson, Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

"These results are very encouraging after last year's mixed picture and are consistent with the 3% growth in first-time international graduate student enrollment we found in our research" said the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) President Debra W. Stewart. "In response to the challenges of a global education marketplace, graduate deans are teaming up with other leaders at their institutions to step up recruitment efforts overseas and highlighting the benefits of attending graduate school in the U.S. to prospective students."

"Internationalization is currently a top priority for American higher education," said Molly Corbett Broad, American Council on Education president. "Bringing international students to our campuses invigorates academic programs and will ultimately help prepare our students for the new global environment. It is encouraging that despite our country's current economic woes, international student enrollment is steady, or in some cases, increasing. We must continue efforts to recruit and retain these students across all of our sectors."

"In the midst of economic challenges affecting most countries, international students continue to recognize the value and opportunity American community colleges offer," said Dr. George Boggs, American Association of Community Colleges president. "Two-thirds of our colleges have experienced steady or increased enrollments of students attracted by affordable cost, a student-centric environment, and career programs that are in global demand."

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Partner Media Contacts

Michael Allen, American Association of Community Colleges
202.728.0200 x233

Susan Chilcott, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
202.293.7070

Tim McDonough, American Council on Education
202.939.9365

Barry Toiv, Association of American Universities
202.408.7500

Paul Hassen, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
202.478.6073

Belle Woods, Council of Graduate Schools
202.223.3791

Ursula Oaks, NAFSA: Association of International Educators
202.495.2553

Media Contacts

Sharon Witherell
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E-mail: switherell@iie.org