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Trends in the Enrollment of International Students to US Institutions Research Paper


Project Proposal

The international education sector has been faced by numerous challenges including increased rivalry and financial drawbacks that have forced many higher learning institutions to become tactical in order to boost international student enrollment. The successful recruitment of international students is now reliant on better comprehension of the factors that influence students to seek higher learning abroad.

This research seeks to examine trends in the enrollment of international students to US institutions. To accomplish this, the research starts by assessing the impact of policy reforms pertaining to internationalization in the four major global student destination countries, namely the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.

The second section of the research involves the analysis of readily available data and relevant literature to identify international enrollment trends in the US with regard to the countries of origin, target states, major education programs, and the new recruitment practices employed by US institutions.

International Education

The international student recruitment process has always been proactive in attracting talent and increasing the diversity of higher learning institutions. However, in the recent past, these institutions have intensified their efforts to boost global enrollment as a way to foster their economic health.

Factors such as increased rivalry and reduced funding have forced institutions of all sizes, including the highly selective public institutions, to become more tactical in their global recruitment practices, if they wish to tap into this revenue stream. While the big institutions have been able to attract a pool of foreign students using their reputation, the smaller ones have been forced to dedicate more resources to prove their relevance in this market.

Regardless of the resources available for the different institutions, only one factor determines the success of international recruitment practices: the better comprehension of factors that influence students to seek higher learning abroad. The influx of Australian students in the US, for instance, has been affected by amendments of the immigration policy in the country of origin (Green and Ferguson 32).

This research paper seeks to identify trends in international education with particular emphasis on the issues affecting international student recruitment. The research starts by examining the impact of policy reforms on international student mobility in the United States compared to Australia, Canada and the UK, followed by a thorough analysis of international enrollment trends in the US with regard to the countries of origin, target states, major education programs, and the new recruitment practices.

Impact of Policy Reforms on International Student Mobility

The UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) claims that the number of international mobile students has continued to grow from 2.1 million in 2002, to an estimated 3.4 million students in 2009. The figure below shows the sizeable growth in global student in the four leading destination countries namely the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, in the period between 2002 and 2009 (Berkely International Office).

Total enrollment numbers in the US, UK, Canada and Australia between 2002 and 2009.

Figure 1: total enrollment numbers in the US, UK, Canada and Australia between 2002 and 2009. Source: Berkely International Office

Based on figure 1 above, the US remained as the leading destination country for global students between 2002 and 2009, though its rate of enrollment growth was much lower compared to that of the UK, Australia and Canada, which recorded a 62%, 43% and 67% increase in enrollment, respectively.

According to Marklein, the US share of internationally mobile students has gradually decreased in the last ten years, despite the growth of global enrollments in higher education. Out of an estimated 3.4 million international students in 2011, only 660,581 students, 20%, sought higher education in the US. Marklein claims that this was a 27% decrease in enrollment from 2002, which he attributes to the establishment of new destination markets and increased competition.

This trend has been a cause for concern among US institutions that continuously need to rely on global students to augment their finances. The institutions claim the attractiveness of the US as a preferable destination country for international students has decreased due to multiple negative influencers including visa complexity, distance, cost, and stiff competition from other popular destinations (Marklein).

Nevertheless, analysts suggest that the US has been passive in global student recruitment, and has just recently identified this opportunity as a great channel to combat fiscal challenges.

Analysts further suggest that the US has great potential to increase its enrollment, owing to the massive size of its post-secondary education system, especially since foreign students account for only 3% of students at higher education level, compared to 8%, 15% and 21% in Canada, the UK, and Australia, respectively. At an institutional level, the US is also capable of absorbing more students compared to its competitors.

Some institutions in the UK, for instance, have an international student population of 50%, compared to 30% in some US institutions (IIE Open Doors). This difference in enrollment has been attributed to aggressive recruitment practices involving the use of agents, particularly in the UK, in addition to liberal amendments to their immigration policies in the early 2000s (IIE Open Doors).

Countries of Origin

According to Choudaha (12), 20% of the world’s higher education international students come from India and China. In addition, more than 80% of the increase in foreign student enrollment in the US, in the past decade, has been from these two countries. However, data from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE) shows that the number of Indian students has been decreasing in the past few years, while that of Chinese students has been on a radical increase.

The USICE holds that there were over 200,000 Chinese students on M-1 and F-1 visas at the Student and Exchange Visitor Approved schools in 2011, which marks a 27% increase from 2010. In the same period, the USICE noted a 4% decrease in the number of Indian students (Knight).

Studies suggest that the growing number of international Chinese students can be attributed to the increasing number of Chinese households who have the financial capacity to take their children through the US education system, coupled with the absence of high-quality education in their home country.

The decline of Indian students’ enrollment, on the other hand, has been attributed to the US economic recession. This is because more than 50% of Indian students enroll in Engineering and Computer Science Master’s programs, and they are extremely keen to identify the possibilities for returns of their investment in education. However, the improving state of the US economy has already began to reverse the trend, as seen from the 18% increase in student visas issued to Indians in 2011 (Bartlett and Fischer).

While India and China remain as the leading sources of global higher education students, there are many other countries that add to the pool of globally mobile students pursuing further studies in the US. Some of these countries include Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, and Vietnam. As a way for US tertiary education institutions to reduce their risk on financial health and boost campus diversity, they have shifted their recruitment efforts to these countries.

Studies claim that Saudi Arabia and Brazil are particularly good student recruitment countries because their governments provide students with scholarships, which considerably reduces the reliance of their students on other forms of financial assistance. The focus of recruitment practices to these new markets has already started to show results, with a 50% increase in Saudi Arabian students in 2011, and the entry of Brazil to the list of top ten countries supplying global students to the US. (Berkely International Office)

Target States

The states that have attracted the highest number of international students in the US include Massachusetts, New York, Texas, California, Illinois, and Washington D.C. While higher learning institutions in these states continue to draw in large numbers of foreign students, the number of enrollments in other states has continued to grow gradually, as well, with a 27%, 19%, 18%, 17% and 15% increase in Delaware, Oregon, Arkansas, Alaska, and South Dakota, from 2009 to 2011, respectively.

The trend to seek higher learning in unpopular institutions has been motivated by the new breed of global students who are open to consider a wide selection of schools, as well as the growing number of institutions recruiting global students. The increasing number of target states can also be attributed to the changes made to state-level policies, such as the amendment of regulations limiting public universities from enrolling international students past the 30% student population mark (Dobbs, Remes and Manyika 43).

Education Programs Enrollment Levels

Data from the IIE Open Doors suggests that close to 34% of all foreign students in the US enrolled for programs at the Bachelor’s level in 2011. Studies suggest that students who enroll for the four-year programs tend to be self-funded and less likely to rely on institutional financial aid. They also provide longer revenue streams compared to the two-year Master’s level students, which has resulted in increased efforts by institutions to recruit students at this level as a way to overcome the current fiscal challenges (IIE Open Doors).

Studies conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute suggest that the rapid rate of fiscal growth and urbanization in Asia will increase the income and ultimately, consumption ability, of many families in both India and China in the period between 2005 and 2025. Higher learning institutions in the US have already acknowledged the changing landscape and the great opportunity that it holds for recruiting more self-funded students.

There was a seven fold increase in the number of Chinese students pursuing 4-year degrees in the US, from 8,000 in 2005 to 56,000 in 2011, who currently account for about 41% of all Chinese students in the US. Similarly, the number of undergraduate level students from Saudi Arabia increased nine-fold within the same period (Times of India).

Besides the increase in foreign students taking up 4-year programs in American institutions, the growth in the total number of global students in the US has also been partly attributed to English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and Optional Practical Training. The growth in the number of OPT students from 29,000 in 2004 to 76,000 in 2011 has been attributed to the extension of the program from 12 to 29 months for STEM students.

Reports suggest that more than 35% of global students and 66% of Indian students find STEM disciplines to be preferable to other levels. Similarly, the intake of students pursuing ESL courses increased from 10,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2011, mostly because of the increase in international students from Saudi Arabia, who made up close to 30% of all students enrolled to these programs in 2011 (Times of India).

New Recruitment Practices

The fraction of international students who pursue higher learning in US institutions is fairly low compared to the total number of high school graduate students. The low percentage implies that US institutions can still do more to make the US an attractive destination for international students.

In an effort to boost their recruitment efforts, various institutions have began to employ new tactics to catch the attention of globally mobile students, including the use of recruitment service providers, state consortia marketing, and using social media to engage with alumni (Choudaha 5).

Emerging recruitment tactics that employ partnerships with commissioned agents and pathways programs have been aimed at facilitating quick turnarounds in enrollment numbers.

However, such practices have resulted in the compromise of quality, which has lowered the institutions’ brand and increased the expenses brought about by risk mitigation measures. According to Bartlett and Fischer, the use of representatives to solicit applications and market the institutions in college fairs has resulted in random applications that make it hard to determine the genuineness of the applicants’ grades.

This has made it critical for institutions to establish proper risk control measures that prevent their recruitment efforts from producing counteractive effects that destroy the veracity of their enrollment processes. Alternatively, some institutions have sought more credible ways to reach applicants via the use of social media (Choudaha 9).

According to Choudaha, the use of social media offers institutions four distinctive advantages: swiftness, impact, low fee, and customization. In addition, engaging the alumni has been extremely instrumental in not only promoting the referral process, but also enhancing the possibility of raising funds in the future. Through social media, institutions have been able to keep in touch with their graduates from all over the world.

The third mode of marketing has been through the use of collaborative effort. According to Green and Ferguson (33), institutions have decided to use state-wide initiatives to pool their resources and make collective efforts to reach international students. This approach has proven to be invaluable for the smaller and less popular institutions, especially in the absence of nationally organized outreach efforts.

Conclusion

Recruitment processes in the US are basically all-year activities with different programs starting at different times of the year. Considering the increasing need for higher education institutions to counteract their fiscal challenges by increasing international enrollment, their recruitment efforts are likely to yield more results in the future by attracting global students from India and China, as well as students from emerging markets like Brazil and Saudi Arabia. Students will continue to pursue ESL programs, as well as bachelor’s level programs in different countries based on the attractiveness of policies to international students.

While the trend shows an increase in student mobility for the four popular destinations, individual states and institutions will have to compete vigorously for gifted and self-funded students. The success of US institutions will be largely dependent on the strategies used for recruitment based on their understanding of the relationship between global mobility trends and the decision-making process of prospective students.

Annotated Bibliography

Bartlett, Tom and Karin Fischer. “The China Conundrum: American colleges find the Chinese-student boom a tricky fit.” 2011. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Web.

The authors examine the factors leading to the increase in the number of international students from Asia, and China in particular, pursuing higher education studies in the US. The article looks at the need for US institutions to demonstrate their diversity in recruiting international students, and the ability of Chinese households to meet the financial obligations of studying abroad.

Berkely International Office. International Student Enrollment Data. 2012. Web.

This portal provides information that is beneficial to international students and scholars in order to enhance their experiences. Some of the content includes advise, advocacy, and immigration services.

In addition, there are full reports containing international student enrollment data for the past decade, showing the current number of international students currently in the US, number of new students each year, number of graduates, percentage increases and decreases in enrollment, key countries of origin, and other useful information pertaining to enrollment in US institutions.

Choudaha, Rahul. Social Media in International Student Recruitment. Durham, NC: Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA), 2012. Print.

Choudaha looks at the signifcance of social media in complementing other efforts made by US institutions to recruit more international students, and the impact of interacting with alumni when it comes to increasing referrals and seeking additional funding. The author further looks at the benefits of social media when used effectively, as a cost-effective tool for international recruitment.

Dobbs, Richard, et al. “Urban World: Cities and the rise of the consuming class.” McKinsey Global Institute 2012. Print.

This report by McKinsey Global Institute examines the economic power of Asian cities, the increase in urban consuming classes, and the implications of the consumer demand on various aspects including the pursuit for high-quality post high-school education in the four leading destination countries.

Green, Madeleine and Adelaide Ferguson. Internationalisation of U.S. Higher Education In a Time of Declining Resources. Barton: Commonwealth of Australia, 2011. Print.

The authors review the issues affecting the internationalization efforts of US higher education institutions, including their declining resources. Green and Ferguson also provide an overview of the US fiscal climate and its implications on higher education, as well as the impact of changes to policies pertaining to internationalization on foreign student recruitment and enrollment.

IIE Open Doors. Institute of International Education. 2011. Web.

Supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State, the IIE Open Doors report contains comprehensive information on international students and scholars who are either teaching or enrolled to higher education institutions in the US. There are also special reports on the fiscal impact of international students studying in the US, and the various modes of financing that these students use, as well as the preference for Bachelor’s programs compared to other levels.

Knight, Michael. Strategic review of the student visa program. Sidney: Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2011. Print.

The author compares the Australian international education sector to other competitive markets including the US with the view to identify the causes of the declining enrollments to Australian institutions. Knight examines the impact of policies, currency, and global competition on international student choice of destination country.

Marklein, Mary Beth. US Colleges appeal fading for foreign students. 2011. Web.

Marklein examines the trends of international students with regard to their preferred destination country in the period between 2000 and 2008. Beth also explores the reasons for the decline in number of international students pursuing their higher education studies in the US after the 9/11 enrolment dip, as well as recruitment practices by the State Department. Beth also discusses various recruitment practices including the use of agents, and the counteractive effects of some of these strategies.

Times of India. More Indian students flying to US this year. 2011. Web.

This article examines the growing number of Indian international students, and the factors that affect their country of destination. Some of the topics covered in the article include the growing household income for most Indian families, the impact of policy changes in different nations on international student enrollment, and the impact of recruitment strategies used to attract Indian international students.

Works Cited

Bartlett, Tom and Karin Fischer. “The China Conundrum: American colleges find the Chinese-student boom a tricky fit.” 2011. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Web.

Berkely International Office. . 2012. Web.

Choudaha, Rahul. Social Media in International Student Recruitment. Durham, NC: Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA), 2012. Print.

Dobbs, Richard, et al. “Urban World: Cities and the rise of the consuming class.” McKinsey Global Institute 2012. Print.

Green, Madeleine and Adelaide Ferguson. Internationalisation of U.S. Higher Education In a Time of Declining Resources. Barton: Commonwealth of Australia, 2011. Print.

IIE Open Doors. Institute of International Education. 2011. Web.

Knight, Michael. Strategic review of the student visa program. Sidney: Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2011. Print.

Marklein, Mary Beth. . 2011. Web.

Times of India. . 2011. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, January 29). Trends in the Enrollment of International Students to US Institutions. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/international-education-2/

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IvyPanda. "Trends in the Enrollment of International Students to US Institutions." January 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/international-education-2/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Trends in the Enrollment of International Students to US Institutions." January 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/international-education-2/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Trends in the Enrollment of International Students to US Institutions'. 29 January.

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