CGS (Council of Graduate Schools) has been conducting surveys since 2004, providing dependable information regarding international students applying to and attending graduate programs in the U.S. According to CGS’s 2018 International Graduate Applications and Enrollment report, the 240 schools participating in the International Graduate Admissions Survey reported receiving 4% fewer international grad school applications in fall 2018 than in fall 2017. This is the second year in a row that application volume has fallen. The number of international enrollees in U.S. grad schools declined by 1%.
Some reasons for this decline appear to be:
- Insecurity about U.S. visa rules
- Political climate regarding immigration
- A strong U.S. dollar, which can make programs more expensive
- Fewer scholarships provided by some countries, especially those with oil-dependent economies
- Tense relations between the U.S. and China
Despite the tension in U.S.-China relations, the most international grad students continue to come to the U.S. from China and India. In the fall of 2018, 42% of first-time international master’s and certificate students and 34% of first-time international PhD students were Chinese nationals. Indian students accounted for 31% of first-time international master’s and certificate students and 13% of international PhD students.
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Additional findings from the study:
- The number of applicants and first-time enrollees from Sub-Saharan African countries increased by 28% and 5%, respectively.
- Applicants from Mexico decreased by 4% between fall 2017 and fall 2018. This is the second year that the numbers of Mexican applicants declined.
- The number of applicants from the Latin American and Caribbean areas rose 4% in applications and 5% in overall first-time enrollments.
- The number of Canadian applications did not change from fall 2017 to fall 2018. First-time grad enrollment went up 6% for the same time period.
- Middle Eastern and North African applications decreased by 14% between fall 2017 and fall 2018.
- European grad applications fell 13% between fall 2017 and fall 2018.
Schools offering master’s degrees but not PhDs experienced the largest decline. They had a 15% drop in first-time international students in their master’s and certificate programs.
Programs that had been among the fastest-growing experienced the largest decreases:
- Engineering: -10%
- Physical and Earth Sciences: -13%
- Public Administration: -27%
According to the Daily Beast, the number of international students enrolled in U.S. graduate program accounted for approximately 20% of the total, or about 250,000 students in fall 2018.
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