Indian students form 18 percent of international enrollees in U.S. in 2020-21 school year

Harvard University image. (Photo

India was the second largest source for incoming international students to the U.S. in the 2020-21 school year, second to China. But enrollments decreased significantly from these countries.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, international student enrollment at U.S. universities fell 15% in the 2020-21 academic year, according to a report released Dec. 6, 2021, by Pew Research Center.

China continued to be the leading place of origin for international students, with 35% of all international students in the 2020-21 school year from the country, the press release noted.

At close to half the enrollment percentage from China, the second most common place of origin was India (18%), followed by South Korea (4%) and Canada (3%).

The researchers found some of these countries also experienced the largest year-over-year decreases in the number of students who enrolled at U.S. institutions. The largest such percentage decreases occurred in South Korea (-21%), China (-15%) and India (-13%).


Earlier this year, Pew conducted a survey in 16 advanced economies which showed American universities are generally held in high esteem around the world, a press release from Pew noted.

Nevertheless, the number of foreign students studying in the United States fell sharply during the 2020-21 academic year, noted Pew based on recently released data from the Institute of International Education, most likely due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fewer than 1 million foreign students enrolled for either online or in-person classes at U.S. universities in the 2020-21 school year, comprising 4.6% of total enrollment at American higher educational institutions. That marks a 15% year-over-year decrease from the 2019-20 school year. It also marks the first time since 2014-15 that fewer than a million international students have enrolled at U.S. institutions, the study found.

The results appear predictable in light of the pandemic. The study said overall decrease in the number of foreign students in the U.S. in 2020-21 was driven by sizable reductions in first-time students coming from abroad – in many cases due to border closings, flight cancellations or other challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, even before the pandemic, the increase in enrollment from China had slowed down, that not just the number of Chinese students here fell sharply in the 2020-21 school year, but also their growth rate had slowed dramatically even before the pandemic. The slowdown followed years of sharp growth, authors said.

The press release noted that Chinese enrollment may have decreased due to worsening relations between U.S. and China as well as some restrictions put in place during the Trump administration barring certain fields of study for students from that country.

This reduction amounts to a considerable loss of revenue for American universities as Chinese students paid an estimated $15 billion in tuition at U.S. colleges in the 2018-19 year.

Regardless of the loss of revenue, however, the study says it found the majority of Americans (55%) support limiting Chinese students studying in the U.S., even as a broad majority (80%) say it’s good for U.S. colleges and universities to accept international students in general, according to a February Pew Research Center survey.



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