The Decline in International Enrollment is Hurting Domestic Students
U.S. higher education was dealt a serious blow this fall. The expansion of international education that has been a critical financial stimulus for American colleges and universities experienced an alarming setback. International education in the forms of U.S. students studying abroad and U.S. institutions enrolling students from other countries has been an area of important growth on campuses across the nation for the past decade.
Study abroad has been consistently confirmed as one of the most transformational educational experiences available to a college student. At Susquehanna University, we are so committed to this developmental advantage that we require all our students to have a study-away experience that engages them in a cultural different from their own. To a person, our students declare that this is one of the most empowering and meaningful components of their undergraduate education.
Students who come to the U.S. from other countries are benefiting from the same type of transformative learning experience while they are on our campuses. They are also providing invaluable benefits to domestic students as they enrich our ability to provide sustained intercultural dialogs and important enhancements of campus diversity.
An equally important byproduct in educating foreign nationals is the opportunity to expose them to the best of our culture. They learn the fundamental beauty of a free and democratic society and the ways in which our republic was born out of the founding fathers’ own education in the liberal arts. Our international alumni become our most compelling statesmen as they carry the world of ideas and ways of thinking they encounter at our institutions back to their home countries, and over time, those around them become ancillary beneficiaries of their experience.
Recently, IIE released their annual Open Doors Report. This past year, the number of new international students enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities dropped by 7%. This has been fueled by a variety issues including increased competition from other nations like Canada and Australia. There are also growing perceptions abroad that international students are less welcome on our campuses and in our communities. These perceptions have been fueled by rhetoric coming out of Washington, which has been underscored through actions like the recent travel bans.
International students accounted for $39 billion in net revenue last year. Those funds helped U.S. colleges and universities provide educational services to all our students, and that revenue has a multifold economic impact in our communities. Those benefits alone should encourage our governmental leaders to become champions in recruiting talented international students to our campuses.
The greater benefit however is the educational gifts these students provide to our domestic students and our faculty and staff colleagues. They are an asset of incalculable value in internationalizing our campuses. As we participate in an ever more interdependent global economy and society, we must provide our students the opportunity to learn from each other how to become effective and informed world citizens.
We owe this to all our students.