International Grad Enrollment Falling

‘There’s no question that fewer international students, because of the political climate in this country, are coming to the U.S. right now for various reasons.’ – President Capuano



Senior Reporter

Applications for admissions by international students to graduate programs at the Metro Campus fell to a four year low in 2017, according enrollment figures released by FDU.

Just 67 international graduate deposits were received this year, compared to 211 in 2016, a decrease of 68 percent.

Applications have decreased yearly since 2014, when 431 international students applied for graduate programs.

College Factual reported similar decreases in enrollment across the United States in recent months.

The loss of 144 international graduate students represents an estimated loss of more than $5 million for FDU (a figure that is a affected by scholarships and other aid), based upon tuition cost estimates on the international admissions page of the FDU website.

College Factual reports that international students contribute an estimated $21 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

University President Chris Capuano offered an explanation.

“There’s no question that fewer international students, because of the political climate in this country, are coming to the U.S. right now for various reasons,” Capuano told The Equinox.

Research supports Capuano’s assertion.

“Nearly 40 percent of U.S. colleges are seeing declines in applications from international students,” reports Inside Higher Ed, “and international student recruitment professionals report ‘a great deal of concern’ from students and their families about visas and perceptions of a less welcoming climate in the U.S.”

The data from Inside Higher Ed comes from a survey of more than 250 American colleges and universities conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, in cooperation with other educational organizations. The executive director of the organization, Michael Reilly, told USA Today that “there are likely to be fewer applicants because some people see America ‘becoming less welcoming of international students.’”

Capuano said that Muslims may feel particularly unwelcome.

“Clearly, if you are from a Muslim-majority country,” he said, “you may be less inclined to come right now because of the rhetoric.”

Additionally, Capuano feels as though some Indian students worry about job security in the States given President Trump’s desire to hire fewer international workers in exchange for hiring American workers, as well as his plans to alter the visa policy for potential immigrants to the United States.

“The Indian student market, I would say, is very immigration-minded,” Capuano said. “The goal of many Indian students is not only to come here to get an education but to stay here. What drives their decision to come here to begin with is jobs.”

Capuano noted that many Indian students enroll in Optional Practical Training, or OPT, while studying at FDU. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Pre-completion OPT (before graduation) gives students employment opportunities while they continue their education, which can encourage Indian students to live and work in the United States after they graduate.

But with recent political and social events in the United States, those opportunities seem less achievable, as Indian students must compete against American workers, many of which would be hired at lower wages.

But Capuano does not see the drop in international graduate student enrollment as a financial threat to FDU. He says that concern is based on a popular misconception.

“It’s no longer true, especially at this school, but at many institutions, that international students are full-paying students,” Capuano said. “There are very few full-paying students at FDU including international students. International students still get scholarships.”

But it’s a different story at public institutions, according to College Factual.

“International students pay the full out-of-state tuition to attend colleges and do not qualify for any kind of financial aid,” College Factual reported in March. “But since international students can’t qualify for state aid, colleges and universities around the country count on their tuition contributions to make their budgets.”

Capuano told The Equinox that as a whole, FDU continues to thrive. He said that enrollment for

the Vancouver campus has increased, and there have been record open houses for the Metro campus over the past two semesters. He said that what concerns him more than enrollment is how the university deals with discrimination, and how FDU can show support for all its students.

“We have no tolerance whatsoever for any discrimination, I can assure you of that,” Capuano said. “The students should know that we are concerned about what’s going on on campus as well as the communities surrounding our campus.”

Capuano is seeking to broaden the reach of FDU’s student recruitment efforts.

“One of the things we could do a better job of, and I said it then and I’m saying it more loudly now, is to develop more markets,” Capuano said. “One market we should be doing better in in terms of market share is China. We should have more Chinese students than we do.”

Capuano stands firmly behind the FDU mission statement as the “Leader in Global Education.”

“I think having more diversity in the student body is not only good for the international students, but for domestic students as well,” Capuano said. “We talk a lot about global education, but global education is not having 1,300 international students and 1,000 of those students are from the same place. That’s not my vision of being truly diverse.”