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International Students Steadily Interested in U.S.

Diversity Casual Team Cheerful Community ConceptThe Institute of International Education (IIE) has announced a new survey on international admissions, and the conclusions are more optimistic than some may have expected.

The survey, titled “Shifting Tides: Understanding International Student Yield for Fall 2017” outlines the admission cycle in the 2017/18 year in the face of raised concerns among U.S. higher education institutions due to debates over visa and immigration policy. Based on the responses received from 165 colleges and universities, findings revealed that interest among international students remains steady overall.

Undergraduate Yields

While the findings were overall impressive, the interest did vary depending on the survey location within the U.S. The top four host states in the U.S. are California, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts, and all but Texas compare favorably to national patterns. While New York and Massachusetts remained steady in enrollment interest, and California reported a slight increase, Texas reported a sizable decrease in yield from 44 percent to 35 percent. Texas isn’t completely off the map though, since even though the state reported the sizable decrease, their interest is still notably higher than the national average.

While there was not a significant dip in international students’ willingness to enter U.S. higher education institutions, the findings of the survey did find that undergraduate yields have dipped slightly from 26 to 24 percent over the past year. The shift, though, is not necessarily indicative of purely international trends, as domestic students fell from 30 to 28 percent over the past year as well.

The survey findings also suggest that international interest varies by institutions, possibly due to the diverse institution types, programs, and locations that can shift student interest. Yields varied due to criteria such as private and public institutions, as private-not-for-profit institutions grew 5 percent, while public institutions dropped 6 percent.

Geographic regions also had differing yields, with the South seeing the greatest decrease in yields, falling 5 percent in yields. Institutions in the South also reported a 13 percent drop of offers that were extended to international students.

Another factor in decisions was students’ places of origin. According to the survey, “distinct patterns emerged in yield depending on students’ places of origin, as can be seen in the following graph.

Graduate Yields

The interest of international graduate students in U.S. higher education fared similar to undergraduate results as reported by a separate survey conducted in May 2017 by the Council of Graduate Schools. Graduate yield is showing evidence to similar shifts among master’s students, which is declines at 46 percent of responding institutions. The survey explains, “Given that the large majority of international graduate students are offered admission into master’s degree programs, this may have implications for first-time enrollment of international graduate students for Fall 2017.”


While many international students have concerns about studying at a higher institution in the U.S., the concerns do not seem to be hindering admissions. It is, however, difficult to draw conclusions base on a 2 percent average yield decrease, notably because many institutions “many institutions have adjusted their recruitment and admission strategies in an effort to minimize the impact of possible declines in international and domestic student applications, more aggressively following up with accepted students and mobilizing alumni and current students, among other strategies to increase yield. Many institutions also make strategic decisions based on the number of applications they receive and they calibrate their admissions offers to generate the desired class size and profile based on expected yield rates.”

There is a concern that the 2 percent decrease could be a signal for larger decreases in the future, and some respondents indicated that they are more concerned about possible declines in the 2018/19 year. At the moment, though, it seems that institutions continue to have a substantial amount of draw for international students to contribute academically.

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