Dec. 7 (UPI) — Enrollment of foreign students in U.S. colleges and universities plunged 15% in the 2020-21 school year even though American institutions remain in high esteem, research showed Monday.
Fewer than 1 million foreign students enrolled for either online or in-person classes at U.S. universities in the 2020-21 school year, marking a 15% year-over-year decrease from the previous school year, according to data from the Institute of International Education analyzed by the Pew Charitable Trust.
It also marked the first time since 2014-15 that fewer than 1 million international students have enrolled at U.S. institutions, historical IIE data showed.
Despite the slowdown, a median of 59% of adults across 16 advanced economies still describe American universities as either the best in the world or above average relative to those in other developed nations, according to a Pew survey.
The declining foreign enrollment was driven by sharp drop-offs in first-time students coming from South Korea (down 21% year-over-year), China (down 15%) and India (down 13%), according to the IIE’s latest Open Doors survey, which included 3,000 U.S. colleges and universities.
China remained the leading place of origin for international students with 35% of all international students in the 2020-21 school year.
U.S. officials have said the 2020-21 drop-off is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated border closings, flight cancellations and other challenges to global mobility.