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US varsities witness decline in fresh foreign students enrolment

us-college-students-reuters In 2016, international students brought $39 billion to the United States economy | Reuters

The United States, known for attracting largest number of international students, is for the first time witnessing a decline in number of new foreign student enrolments.

While the overall number of international students studying in the United States has increased, the number of new international students—those enrolled at a US institution for the first time in fall 2016, declined by nearly 10,000 students to about 291,000—a three per cent decrease from the previous year. The data was reported by Institute of International Education (IIE) in its Open Doors report. The Open Doors report is supported by a grant from the bureau of educational and cultural affairs, US department of State.

The factors driving the slowing of growth include a mix of global and local economic conditions, and in some cases expanded higher education opportunities at home and declining populations. The scaling back of large Saudi and Brazil government scholarship programs were a significant factor, as the number of students from those two countries showed the biggest decreases, particularly in non-degree study.

In 2016, international students brought $39 billion to the United States economy through their spending on tuition, room and board and living expenses, according to the US Department of Commerce. 

Students from around the world who study in the United States also contribute to America's scientific and technical research and bring international perspectives into US classrooms, helping American students prepare for global careers, and often lead to longer-term business relationships and economic benefits. 

For the third year in a row, the largest growth was in the number of students from India, primarily at the graduate level and in optional practical training (OPT). China remains the top sending country, with almost twice the number of students in the US as India, but India’s rate of growth outpaced that of China. 

According to the report, institutions express concerns about recruiting students from the Middle East and North Africa (76 per cent), likely due to adjustments in the Saudi Arabian government's scholarship programme and potential concerns about travel restrictions to the US. 

The report shows that 325,339 American students received academic credit last year at the home campus for study abroad in 2015-2016, an increase of four per cent from the previous year. 

Study abroad by American students has more than tripled in the past two decades; however, the rate of growth had slowed following the financial crisis in 2008. The population of US students studying abroad continues to diversify, with greater inclusion of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds.

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