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Top Five Megatrends Captured by the Open Doors Report

Many US schools experienced a fall in overseas applicants, especially for two-year MBA courses.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   26-11-2019

Indian student in the US

The 2019 “Open Doors” report brought out by the Institute of International Education (IIE) can be counted on to throw up reliable megatrends. Here are some of interesting takeaways from the report:

US loses its luster for MBA students  

Many US schools experienced a fall in overseas applicants, especially for two-year MBA courses. A conspicuous change in the "Open Doors" report for the 2018-19 academic year was that math/computer science surpassed business/management as the second most popular field for international students, after engineering which maintained its No. 1 spot.   

The number of students studying math and computer science jumped by 9.4%, while the number studying business fell by 7.1 percent, a decline of nearly 14,000 students from 196,054 to 182,170.

It is possible that after weighing up the options of job opportunities versus course costs — and hearing warnings about the challenges of securing the necessary H-1B work visa, many international students are choosing Europe. Applications have been rising for rival one-year MBAs offered by many European business schools. The cost of tuition fees at top US schools, have also risen faster than salary increases achieved by students after graduation, and is another concern for applicants.

Other than science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business, the "Open Doors" survey found the most popular courses with international students were physical or life sciences, health professions, agriculture, and social studies.

Spike in Indian Students

The number of Indians studying in the US increased by almost 3% over the last year to 202,014 – the sixth consecutive year marking such growth. According to the annual report, Indians make up over 18% of all international students in the US. India provided the second highest number of graduate students and jumped up to third place in undergraduates, it said.

While undergraduate student numbers at 24,813 showed an increase of 6.3% over 2018; the nondegree category increased by 18.8% to 2,238; the optional practical training (OPT) category increased by 12.3% to 84,630. The number of graduate students, the largest cohort from India at 90,333, fell by 5.6%.

“The number of Indian students going to the US for nondegree courses in areas such as English language or for skill-oriented courses such as flying schools or chef training is increasing,” said Charisse Phillips, minister counselor for consular affairs the US embassy, in New Delhi.

“These often provide an excellent affordable option for students to get used to the culture of a new country, and can be taken up at some of the US community colleges,” she added.

China is largest source of foreign students

For the tenth consecutive year, China remained the largest source of international students in the United States with 369,548 students in the 2018-2019 academic year.

The number of students from the No. 1 sending country, China, increased by 1.7% in 2018-19, with Chinese graduate enrollments increasing by 2% and Chinese undergraduate enrollments increasing by a modest 0.2%. The number participating in nondegree study, a category that includes intensive English programs, decreased by 5.4%, while the number of Chinese students on OPT increased by 6.6%.

Taken together, students from China and India account for 52.1% of all international students studying in the US, so even small shifts in the sizes of these student populations can make big differences to colleges.

The other top places of origin for international students studying in the US were South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil and Mexico.

More than one million foreign students

In 2018-19, US colleges and universities hosted more than one million international students for the fourth consecutive year. The total number of international students expanded for the 13th consecutive year due to a 9.6% rise in the number of students participating in OPT programs that allow international students to stay in the US to work for up to three years after graduating while staying on their student visas.

Otherwise, the number of enrolled international students at US colleges and universities actually decreased at all academic levels — undergraduate, graduate and nondegree — in the 2018-19 academic year, according to the "Open Doors" report.

The number of international undergraduate students declined by 2.4%, the number of international graduate students declined by 1.3% and the number of international nondegree students declined by 5%.

Cost is the deciding factor 

While the US remains the world’s most popular destination for international students, it’s also among the most expensive choices. Raising tuition for international students has, until now, been a straightforward way to pay for big US university budgets. But it seems that some foreign students have finally had enough.

"Everywhere I travel, talking with parents and students, the No. 1 concern they have is about cost. American higher education is expensive -- it is more expensive than other countries. I'd say there’s always a mix of factors that go into deciding who will come, where they’ll come, where they’ll go, but overwhelmingly that is what is most on parents’ minds," said Allan E Goodman, the CEO and president of IIE.



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