International Students Enrollment Numbers Drop

November 22nd, 2019


On Monday, November 18, 2019, the Institute of International Education (IIE) released the latest 2019 Open Doors report confirming that international student enrolment in the US is steadily declining. The annual Open Doors report is compiled jointly by the IIE and the US State Department.

In this week’s blog we will offer a quick summary of the outcomes of this report.

  1. For the 2018-2019 school among 19,828,000 total students in institutions of higher education in the U.S.,1,095,299 were international students which is 5.5% of all college and university students in the U.S.
  2. According to VOA new: The numbers showed a slight increase in total international enrolment, 0.05 percent from the previous year, but a decrease in new international student enrolment, -0.9 percent.
  3. The Open Doors Report shows decreases in undergraduate (-2.4%), graduate (-1.3%) and non-degree (-0.5%) enrollments.

Subsequent news reports reacting to the 2019 Open Doors cite the following as reasons for the declining numbers of international student enrollments:

  1. Negative perception of President Donald Trump and the growing negative rhetoric regarding international visitors, immigrants, and non-U.S. citizens.
  2. International students concern about gun violence and their safety on U.S. college campuses and cities at large.
  3. Sharp rise in value of S. dollar in 2015 and 2016.
  4. Saudi Arabia’s decision in 2016 to cut back on its scholarship impacted the number of Saudi students coming to study in the U.S.
  5. According to an OpEd by Justin Fox in Bloomberg, “public universities in the U.S. aren’t quite as desperate for full-tuition-paying international students as they were a few years ago, with state per-student spendingup 15% in real terms since 2012-2013.”
  6. S. higher education faces fierce competition from Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom when it comes to attracting international students. Lower tuition and safety make these countries a more attractive option.

According to estimates from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the continued decline in international student enrollment since the fall of 2016 has cost the US economy $11.8 billion and more than 65,000 jobs.

Can the U.S. reverse this tide? Can it reclaim its #1 ranking as the destination for international students and regain its dominance? If so, how?

Helpful links:

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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