Resurgence and Evolution: Trends and Opportunities in US International Education, Post-Pandemic

Lorien Finance
Lorien Finance

The most recent SEVIS by the Numbers report indicated that international student activity in the United States hit a high point in 2022, a record unseen since 2019. We took a deep dive into these figures, comparing 2022 with the pre-pandemic era of 2019, to understand the shifting trends in regional demographics, source countries, and major areas of study. Unveiling the Dynamics of International Education in the US

Despite a rebound in 2022, the 1.3 million international students in the US during this year were 11% less than the number in 2019. California, accounting for a 43% drop in the number of active international students from 2019 to 2022, bore the brunt of this decrease. However, there was a silver lining with a 16% rise in the Latin American student populace in 5 out of the top 10 US states during this period. Additionally, computer science emerged as the most preferred major, witnessing an 18% rise in international student enrolment from 2019. SEVIS Data: A Comparison Between Current and Pre-Pandemic Numbers

The year 2022 saw a resurgence of international students in the US, with a 10% leap compared to 2021. However, when compared with 2019, the numbers were still 11% lower. A broader perspective reveals a consistent decline in the active international student population from 2017 to 2019, with the 2022 figures following a similar trend after discounting the pandemic-driven anomalies of 2020 and 2021. Decline Predominantly Rooted in the West

While in 2019, three out of the four US Census regions housed over 400,000 students, only the Northeast managed to achieve this in 2022. The West experienced a significant 20% decline in active students between 2019 and 2022. The state of California was pivotal in this trend, contributing to 43% of the total US drop. While California remains the top choice for international students, other states are making strides. In 2022, Texas recorded a 4% growth compared to 2019, making it the only top five state to witness a growth in this period. Emerging and Declining Student Markets

From 2019 to 2022, the US witnessed a sharp decline in Chinese students, with 150,000 fewer enrolments, a decrease of about 32%. This is likely due to China's zero-COVID policy. But China was not the only country to witness a declining trend. Five other countries, including Saudi Arabia, saw a drop of at least 18%, with Saudi Arabia experiencing a striking 54% dip. On the flip side, the international student market from India and Nigeria experienced significant growth during this period, both recording a 19% increase. With the waning Chinese student numbers, India may surpass China to become the US's largest student population by 2023. Potential Impact of UK Visa Policy Changes

A proposed UK policy to limit dependent visas for certain international master's students could affect Indian and Nigerian students the most. As these two groups have seen growth in the US from 2019 to 2022, the US education sector could stand to gain from these policy changes. If the UK implements these visa changes, it could provide an excellent opportunity for the US to devise new policies to attract Indian and Nigerian master's students with families, thereby gaining a significant competitive edge. Latin American Student Growth

An encouraging trend is the surge in Latin American students studying in the US since 2019. With the exception of Brazil and Venezuela, the student populations from the top 10 Latin American countries grew by more than 16%. Notable growth was seen in Mexican, Colombian, and Peruvian student populations. To attract more Latin American students, US institutions could consider investing in English-language pathways. Shift in Preferred Majors

There has been a noticeable shift in international students' interests towards computer science and information sciences. Computer science took the lead as the top primary major in 2022, with an 18% surge in international student enrolments. Moreover, there was a 43% increase in the number of students opting for econometrics and quantitative economics. A Look Ahead

An overarching view of international student trends reveals that the US international education sector has bounced back from the pandemic and reverted to pre-pandemic trends. With a decline in Chinese students, US institutions should leverage their current international students and alumni in diversification recruitment efforts. Also, attention should be focused on how they’re helping their international students develop the soft skills that are critical for post-graduation employment. The institutions that can best help their students achieve their career goals will stand apart from the competition.

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