The number of Indians going to the United States to pursue higher education declined by 4.4% in 2019-20, according to the Open Doors snapshot survey data for the year. This is the sharpest decline since 2005-06, when it declined by 5%. This comes after six consecutive years of growth, and could potentially drop further because of the pandemic.
There was a surge in Indian enrolments in 2014-15, but the rate of increase has steadily declined with each academic year. This could be because of US President Donald Trumpâ€™s administrationâ€™s stance on immigration, as well as potential changes in the Optional Practical Training periods for those on student visas and the tightening of H-1B visa regulations.
The report, released by the US Department of Stateâ€™s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education, showed that the United States hosted more than 1 million international students (1,075,496) in an academic year for the fifth consecutive year. Of this, Indians are the second largest group (18%) in international students, overtaken only by the Chinese at 35%.
As per the report, there was a decline of 1.8% year-on-year in the number of international students in the US for the 2019-2020 academic year. This is a decline of approximately 20,000 students. This is the first time there has been a decline since 2005-06.
According to the US Department of Commerce, international students contributed $44 billion to the US economy in 2019.
For the current academic year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US saw a record 43% dip in the number of students choosing the country for higher education (fresh enrolments) for the Fall semester starting August 2020, which is both for in-person as well as online classes.
â€śAmong new international students attending US higher education institutions both in the United States and those pursuing full-time course work virtually outside the United States, enrolment has decreased by 43%,â€ť the survey said.
It added that more international students began their coursework outside the country rather than inside. It said that in the colleges it surveyed, 49% of new international students are in the country and 51% of new international students are enrolled online outside. â€śAs a result, and not surprisingly, responding colleges and universities report that new enrolment of international students physically in the United States declined by 72%,â€ť it said.
â€ś...for international students signing into real-time studies during US working hours, there are challenges of adapting their academic hours while living in different time zones,â€ť it said.
Many students have also deferred their enrolments. Over 40,000 international students have reportedly deferred enrolment. Country-wise data was unavailable.
For the Fall 2020 semester, the survey said that there was a 16% decline in international students studying both in the US as well as online due to the impact of the pandemic.
As many as 20% of all international students in the US choose engineering, followed by Math and Computer Science at 19.1% and Business and Management at 16.2%. Over half (52%) of international students pursued majors in STEM fields of study (engineering, math and computer science, physical and life sciences, health professions, and agriculture) in 2019-2020.
While the pandemic will certainly impact the numbers for 2020, a Joe Biden presidency could help, according to reports, as he is seen as a friendlier face. Education consultants reportedly expect an uptick in students applying to the US next year.