International Students in the U.S.

November 29th, 2016 by

MP910216381International Students in the U.S.    2016 Data

On November 14, 2016, the Institute of international Education published their annual Open Doors report. The following are highlights from that report:

The number of international students enrolled on U.S. colleges and universities increased by 7.1 percent to 1,043,839, or 69,000 additional international students studying in the U.S. International students represent 5 percent of the more than 20 million students enrolled in U.S. higher education.

International students contribute more than $35 billion to the U.S. economy.

The greatest increase were students from India, primarily at the graduate level. However, China still remains the largest the top sending country. Three out of every ten students in the U.S. are from China.

China, India and Saudi Arabia represent 53 percent of the total number of international students in the U.S.

Students from Nepal, Vietnam, Nigeria and Colombia enrolled in larger numbers than the previous year.

Students from Iran increased by 8.2 percent (12,269), the highest number of students from that country since 1979/80.

The number of students from Brazil, South Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, Germany and Turkey, decreased from the previous year.

The overwhelming majority of international students enrolled in colleges and universities in California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois.

The number of Americans studying abroad increased by 2.9 percent to 313,415. Europe remains the top destination for Americans studying abroad. The majority enroll in universities in the UK, France and Spain. The majority of Americans studying abroad were STEM students followed by study abroad students in Business and Management. A total of 22,431 U.S. students participated in noncredit workshops, internships and volunteer programs.

Despite the positive data from this year’s Open Door report, there are some negative trends, including:

This year’s growth of 7.1 percent is less than the 10.00 percent from 2015 and the 8.1 percent increase from 2014.

The number of new international students in 2015/16 was 300,743. Last year the figure was 293,766.

The U.S. continues to lose overall market share of the total number of international students.

Cautionary Prediction

It is important to remember that the figures reported by IIE are for the previous year, not the current one. There are ominous signs coming from all corners of the world, after the election of 2016. For example, the University of Toronto reported that the day after the election 10,000 prospective American students requested application information.

Recruiting agents in China and India are both reporting a softening of interest from prospective students to study in the U.S.

I predict Canada will be one of the biggest winners in enrolling international students next year. Last year the number of international students increased by 8 percent in Canada and students from China and India were the major drivers of that growth.

Finally, I predict next year’s Open Doors statistics will report data very different from this year’s report.   

Retention Strategies for International Students

November 8th, 2016 by


Retention Strategies for International Students

Recruiting and enrolling international students is just the first step in implementing a successful international strategic plan.  First year international students progressing from first to second year is a more revealing indication of a comprehensive and holistic international strategic plan. So is the number of international students who graduate.

Check which of these seven progression and retention suggestions are part of your school’s retention and student success plan for international students.

Is there an orientation program, in addition to the general orientation program, for international students and their parents?

Are surveys conducted of international students who progress from the first to second year and those who do not? Is a profile of both groups shared with appropriate faculty and staff? How is the information used to improve persistence and graduation rates?

Is there a profile, by country, of international students who graduate? Is this information shared with international recruiters? Are profiles of successful international graduates shared with prospective international students and parents?

Are specific counseling interventions in place to deal with issues common to many international students, like homesickness?

Is there a dedicated office and staff for international students who can assist with visa issues, academic and student services problems and cultural events?

Are course withdrawals, which can impact a student’s visa, monitored and reported to appropriate staff?

Who communicates with international parents during the first semester and year?

While much has been written on how colleges and universities can recruit international students, little has been written about how to successfully retain these students. I believe having a dedicated office and staff for international students and using data to support progression, student success and retention strategies, are some of the ways to assist international students to have a successful academic experience.

Recruiting Internationally

October 25th, 2016 by

Depositphotos_14075639_xsRecruiting internationally?

Always have a Plan B

Readers of this blog will remember my frequent advice about always having a Plan B baked into strategic international plans. In a world that often seems to be dominated by terrorism, economic turmoil, and the unexpected, it is not only recommended but necessary to have alternative sources of enrollment and revenue.

Let’s consider a few examples:

Last year the government of the UK decided to conduct a referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union. The majority of people in Britain and around the world believed that the vote would be to remain. That is not how it turned out and now many colleges and universities, both in the UK and worldwide, are dealing with the fallout of the vote. How leaving the EU will ultimately impact higher education enrollments remains to be seen. But having a Plan B just in case the vote was to leave the EU, would have given colleges and universities an opportunity to better plan and position themselves to deal with the consequences of the vote to leave.

In Saudi Arabia, when King Abdulla died, I would have immediately planned a new and different strategy to recruit students from Saudi Arabia. It should not surprise anyone that the scholarship program named after the late king would be scaled back. At the annual NAFSA meeting in June, 2016, it was announced that 80 percent of colleges and universities with English language programs had declines in Saudi enrollment in spring, 2016 and more than 50 percent expected a decline in the fall, 2016 semester. Did any of these schools have a Plan B for Saudi Arabia?

Does your school have a plan to offer online courses to international students? Currently there are approximately 4,200 MOOC courses offered by more than 500 universities.  In an article written by Rachel Merola and published by the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education, the author writes that the top two countries for online learning are India and China. There are 5.42 million distance learning enrollments in India and enrollments are predicted to increase ten percent by 2019. For further information, read “Going the distance: what does data tell us about cross-border online leaning.”   

While I don’t think it is necessary to hire a researcher to scan the globe for both opportunities and potential danger, I do think someone in the international student office should be responsible for PlanB.

China Facts

October 11th, 2016 by



China Facts

If you recruit in China or are considering beginning a recruitment program in China, this information will be useful.


Since 1978 more than 700 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty. For the first time in its history, China has a huge middle class. Average income per capita in China’s biggest cities is roughly equivalent to the average income in Taiwan and South Korea when those countries became democracies. By 2020, by some estimates, the Chinese middle class may outnumber the middle class in Europe.

There are now more billionaires (568) living in Beijing and Shanghai than in New York. Income inequality is as much a concern in China as it is in the United States.  

One in six Chinese is already over 60. By 2025, the projection is one in four. One of the long-term effects of the one child policy, rising incomes that allowed young people to study abroad for university, urbanization and increased mobility has been profound societal changes. A generation of young, university-trained Chinese are no longer interested in returning to villages to take care of their parents and grandparents. An estimated 58 million young Chinese live alone. Chinese “old age” homes are springing up around the country. President Xi recently issued an order to young Chinese to communicate with their parents on a regular basis. The family was once the cornerstone of stability in Chinese society. That appears to be changing.

In 2000 about 1 million Chinese students completed university degrees. In 2015 the figure was 7 million. Last year more than 500,000 Chinese students studied abroad. Since 2005 the number of Chinese secondary school students studying in the United States was 35,000. Chinese student mobility has, and will continue to be, a source of students in the future.

However, the return on a university education, in terms of securing a good job after graduation, is changing. Good jobs are more difficult to obtain in China as more graduates flood the job market and competition is fierce. Reliable statistics are difficult to analyze, but there is some evidence to suggest that an increasing number of Chinese university graduates are opting to work in the United States, the UK, Australia and Canada. Since 1978, 4 million Chinese have studied abroad and 50 percent have not returned to China after graduation. Since 2001 more than 1 million Chinese have become citizens of other countries.  This development adds to the instability of the traditional Chinese family and value system, based on the teachings of Confucius.

The point of this blog is to illustrate that whether your Chinese recruitment program is old or new, the economic, political and   societal changes taking place in China today will impact future recruitment strategies.

If you are interested in a deeper analysis of the changes taking place in China today, I recommend reading “The New Class War” article in the July 9th issue of The Economist.


Around the World: Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges Part 2

September 26th, 2016 by

Around the world: Trends, opportunities, and challenges    Part 2


In my last blog I wrote about changes taking place in countries around the world and the impact some of these changes will have on your current and future international student recruitment plans. This blog post continues to list additional trends.




If you want to know where Chinese student mobility patternsare heading it is necessary to underst and the political and economic climate in the country today. There is a reason why10 percent of the population is moving their money and their families out of China. There is a reason why Chinese parents are increasingly sending their children abroad for study at the middle school and high school level. There is a reason why Chinese families are purchasing homes and properties all over the world. Understanding the China of today will help you prepare for future Chinese recruitment strategies and plans. It should come as no surprise that there have been steep declines in the number of Saudi students studying abroad, especially in English language programs. Many colleges and universities in the United States are reporting up to 60 and 70 percent declines in the number of Saudi enrollments. A change in leadership and the sharp price in oil declines are the chief reasons for the Saudi government decreasing the number of Saudi students selected for scholarships to study abroad. The bigger story is the need for international student recruitment outreach to have diversification baked into all strategic plans.

The suspension of Brazil’s Science Without Borders Program is a reminder that international strategic plans should monitor the geopolitical and economic reality of countries. While most students and academics inside and outside of Britain believe that the Brexit vote will prove to be bad for higher education enrollment and research collaboration, there is one country that was happy with the vote. Can you guess which country that was? (Answer is at the end of this blog)

If you want to know what Asian country, excluding China and India, is emerging as another Asian tiger, take a look at what is happening in Vietnam. There are many reasons for this and the August 6 th issue of “The Economist” outlines many of the factors shaping Vietnam’s economy which, in turn, will impact Vietnamese students studying abroad. I began recruiting in Vietnam almost 15 years ago and more than doubled the enrollment of students from Vietnam shortly after my first recruitment trip. Take a close look at Vietnam for recruiting if your school is not already outreaching to

Vietnamese students.

These are just some of the changes I think are important. In the weeks to come I will continue to monitor trends, opportunities and challenges from around the world that should be of interest to your college or university’s strategic international planning.

Answer to question of which European country was pleased with the Brexit vote: Russia.