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HomenewsEducationDrop in U.S. English Enrollments

Drop in U.S. English Enrollments

Pupils (14-18) in school classroomIIE announced steep declines in U.S. intensive English enrollments during a presentation at the recent NAFSA conference in Los Angeles. In the 2016 calendar year, 108,433 international students studied in U.S. intensive English programs (IEPs) for a total of 1,530,817 student weeks, data from Open Doors show. The number of IEP students fell 19% in 2016, and student weeks fell by 23% from the prior year.

IIE research specialist Julie Baer points out that the relatively short duration of intensive English programs contributes to greater volatility in IEP enrollment compared to international students in degree programs. “Students who travel overseas to pursue degrees are likely to stay for multiple years, while students in language programs of shorter duration are more subject to currency fluctuations and other factors,” she says.
Declines were noted from all world regions, with the largest drops from Saudi Arabia and Brazil, which both experienced reductions in their governments’ large-scale scholarship programs that previously supported large numbers of IEP students. Amid broad declines from most top places of origin, IEP students from Mexico grew substantially, by 40%, due to continuing collaborations between U.S. and Mexican higher education institutions supported by the U.S. 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative and Mexico’s Proyecta 100,000.

This bright spot in U.S. IEP enrollment reveals the positive impact of government initiatives on facilitating English language training opportunities for students. More data can be found online at

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