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International Student Enrollment in US Takes Hit

FILE - People walk past an entrance to Widener Library on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., July 16, 2019.
FILE - People walk past an entrance to Widener Library on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., July 16, 2019.

After big economic hits to the U.S. higher education sector over the past few years, experts say recruiting international students will be crucial to the industry’s recovery.

International student enrollment in U.S. universities has stalled and retreated in the past three years because of high costs, barriers to immigration and employment pathways, political rhetoric and perceived crime, according to data from the Institute of International Education (IIE).

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this decline with a 43% drop in the rate of international student enrollment for the fall 2020 semester, according to IIE.

And trade wars between the United States and China could cost American universities up to $1.15 billion in lost tuition revenue, a study from the University of California, San Diego says.

“Foreign tuition revenues are a crucial aspect of U.S. services exports,” the authors said. “Although much of the conversation on trade with China has focused on the goods trade deficit, there has been undeservedly little attention on the trade surplus with respect to educational services.”

About one-third of the more than 1 million international students in the U.S. come from China, according to IIE’s annual Open Doors report.

The report shows how income growth among upper-income families is linked to the export of educational services from the U.S. As Chinese cities exposed to trends of trade liberalization with the U.S. grew in wealth, they sent more students to study abroad. Freer trade policies alone accounted for about a quarter of Chinese students in the U.S. between 2004 and 2014, the report found.

FILE- In this March 14, 2019, file photo students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, Calif. A trade war between the United States and China could reportedly cost American universities up to $1.15 billion in lost tuition revenue.
FILE- In this March 14, 2019, file photo students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, Calif. A trade war between the United States and China could reportedly cost American universities up to $1.15 billion in lost tuition revenue.

The Trump administration imposed a tariff increase of 20 percentage points for Chinese products in 2018 in an effort to promote American products, making imported goods more expensive. The researchers found that about 30,000 fewer Chinese international students would attend American universities over the next 10 years. That could result in an 8% decrease in educational exports to China and up to $1.15 billion in lost revenue for American educational institutions.

“If the trade wars continue out into the future, a portion of the gain that happened as a result of free trade will decrease,” said Guarav Khanna, co-author of “Trade Liberalization and Chinese Students in U.S. Higher Education,” published in July 2020. “That free trade has driven the flow of students into the U.S., and restricting trade would partly reverse some of that.”

The rate of Chinese international student enrollment grew by 0.8% in the last year, according to IIE.

“That’s a really small number compared to the exponential growth we’d been seeing five years earlier,” Khanna told VOA. “Rates of international students were really high, and they really slowed down after 2016. They slowed down further because of trade wars.”

High tariffs impacting China’s wealthiest cities could help explain a decline in international student enrollment in U.S. universities. Meanwhile, competing countries are ramping up their recruitment.

In an opinion article for the Brisbane Times published February 19, John Brumby, chancellor of La Trobe University, wrote that since education is Australian’s fourth-largest export, international students should be welcomed and encouraged to attend institutions of higher education in Australia. Additionally, he wrote that Chinese international students stimulate the Australian economy and support at least 250,000 jobs in Australia.

“Students are choosing to study abroad, but they’re choosing countries like Canada and Australia, which not only are trying to make it easy for those students to go to these countries, but making it easy for students to stay and work after,” Khanna said. “In the last two years, the U.S. has made it more difficult for these students.”

FILE - This photo from June 7, 2019, shows the Carnegie Mellon University campus in Pittsburgh. The Biden administration looks set to continue the trade war on China, The AP reports, which may continue to impact international student enrollment.
FILE - This photo from June 7, 2019, shows the Carnegie Mellon University campus in Pittsburgh. The Biden administration looks set to continue the trade war on China, The AP reports, which may continue to impact international student enrollment.

The Biden administration looks set to continue the trade war on China, The Associated Press reported, which may continue to impact international student enrollment. No tariff cuts are expected by analysts. This may further a deceleration and potential decline in Chinese international student enrollment in the U.S.

One metric this year indicates that enrollment from other countries has “surged.”

“International applicant volume surged relative to 2019-20, highlighting meaningful growth in several home countries,” Jenny Rickard, president and chief executive officer of Common Application said in January. Common App is a standardized college application form used by nearly 900 institutions of higher education in the U.S. and internationally.

“While applicants from China declined by 18%, other countries exhibited noteworthy growth, including India (+28%); Canada (+22%); Pakistan (+37%); the United Kingdom (+23%); and Brazil (+41%),” Rickard explained.

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Xi wants more exchanges between US, Chinese universities

FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not seen) at the Great Hall of the People, on April 26, 2024, in Beijing, China.
FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not seen) at the Great Hall of the People, on April 26, 2024, in Beijing, China.

Mutual understanding between China and the United States can be improved by having more university exchanges between the two countries.

According to Bloomberg, Chinese President Xi Jinpin told Xinhua News Agency that exchanges could develop young ambassadors who understand both countries. (June 2024)

Students learn protests can affect job prospects

FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.
FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.

Some students in the U.S. are learning their public stances on the Israel-Hamas war are having an impact on job prospects.

Financial Times reports that protest activities are turning up in background checks, and employers have revoked employment offers to students as a result. (June 2024)

UCLA names new chancellor as campus is still reeling from protests over Israel-Hamas war

Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.

The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the retiring incumbent leaves a campus roiled by protests over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Dr. Julio Frenk, a Mexico City-born global public health researcher, was selected by regents of the University of California system at a meeting on the UCLA campus, where there were a swarm of security officers.

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who has been chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for U.S. campus protests. This spring, pro-Palestinian encampments were built and cleared by police with many arrests, and again this week, there were more arrests.

Frenk has led the 17,000-student University of Miami since 2015 and previously served as dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and as Mexico's national health secretary, among other positions.

In a brief press conference, Frenk said he was approaching the appointment with excitement and humility.

"The first thing I plan to do is listen very carefully," Frenk said. "This is a complex organization. It is, as I mentioned, a really consequential moment in the history of higher education."

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or the current administration's response, which initially tolerated an encampment but ultimately used police to clear it and keep new camps from forming.

During public comment in the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, alleged police brutality, complained of a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies with ties to Israel or in weapons manufacturing.

Speakers also talked about experiencing antisemitism on campus and called for an increased law enforcement response to protesters.

Later, about 200 people rallied, including members of an academic student workers union and the Faculty for Justice for Palestine group as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges to be dropped against protesters who have been arrested.

Block departs UCLA on July 31. Darnell Hunt, executive vice president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA's seventh chancellor on January 1, 2025.

In previous roles, Frenk was founding director of Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, held positions at the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global health program.

Frenk received his medical degree from the National University of Mexico in 1979. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he earned master's degrees in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology.

Experts: US will have nearly 2 million international students by 2034

FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.
FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.

Experts predict the U.S. will enroll nearly 1.8 million international students by 2034, ICEF Monitor reports.

Most of the students will hail from India, along with China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Nepal, Brazil and Mexico, the analysis says.

Read the story here. (May 2024)

UCLA gets its first international student undergraduate council president

FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.
FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.

An international student will lead the Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA for the first time.

Adam Tfayli, who is from Lebanon, won the presidential race, beating out five other candidates.

Student newspaper the Daily Bruin has the story here. (May 2024)

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