Foreign Applications To U.S. Colleges And Study Abroad By Americans Rebound, New Report Shows

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More American students are seeking to study abroad, and the number of international students applying to colleges in the United States are increasing according to a new report by the Institute of International Education.

The reportThe Spring 2022 Snapshot on International Educational Exchange – presents data from 559 U.S. higher education institutions about several aspects of international education, including: the outlook for applications from international students; the effects of Russia’s war against Ukraine on international student mobility and university partnerships, and information about U.S. students studying abroad.

Here are some of the key findings.

Most Institutions Are Reporting An Increase In International Student Applications

Almost two-thirds (65%) of institutions reported an increase in applications for admission from international students for the 2022-23 academic year. That’s up from the 43% of colleges reporting an increase one year ago, indicating that international applicants are rebounding off their Covid-19 pandemic lows, when, according to IIE’s 2020 survey, 52% of the reporting institutions reported a decrease in international applications for the 2020-21 academic year.

The increase no doubt reflects several factors, among them a renewed emphasis on direct, in-person recruitment, with nearly half (43%) of institutions reporting that they were using in-person recruitment of international applicants, after a couple of years of relying on social media and online recruitment.

A second factor is the resumption of in-person classes for international students at almost all U.S. institutions. Over half of reporting institutions (55%) indicated that all their international students attended classes in person in spring 2022, compared to just 8% one year ago, when the pandemic was more severe. An additional 34% reported that most of their international students are studying in person. Almost all reporting institutions (96%) plan to offer in-person study to future international students in the United States in the upcoming academic year.

And third, during the last two years, U.S. institutions have continued to place an emphasis on their international students’ health, safety, and wellbeing. For example, 89% of reporting institutions have provided pandemic-related communication on student health and wellbeing, 88% allow electronic signatures on documentation for student status and visas, and 61% have offered mental health support and other student services. Finally, 40% of the reporting institutions continue to provide Covid-related emergency student funding to their international students.

In-Person Study Abroad Also Expected To Rebound For U.S. Students

Most U.S. institutions reported increased student participation in various study abroad opportunities compared to the past two years. In summer 2022, 58% of responding institutions indicated the they are offering in-person study abroad programs; another 31% are offering hybrid programs. The proportion of in-person study abroad programs is expected to increase to 65% of colleges in fall 2022 and 64% in spring 2023.

Overall, 83% of institutions reported an increase in study abroad numbers compared to last year, an uptick that was found at all types of institutions and in all geographic regions of the U.S. That’s a significant improvement from 2020-21, when only 1% of colleges and universities expected study abroad numbers to increase, and from 2021-22, when 35% anticipated an increase.

The most popular destinations for study abroad remains Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, and France, with over 75% of responding institutions planning to offer programs in each destination. Only four of the top 15 program destinations were outside of Europe: Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Costa Rica.

How U.S. Colleges and Universities are Supporting International Students during the Ukraine Crisis

In the 2020-21 academic year, over 1,700 international students from Ukraine were studying at U.S. colleges or universities, according to Open Doors. Almost half of the institutions (44%) responding to the IIE survey said they were hosting international students from Ukraine in spring 2022, and many of them were offering those students expanded support in the form of emergency funding, mental health services, legal consultation and housing assistance.

In academic year 2021-22, there were more than 4,800 international students from Russia studying in the United States, and U.S. institutions are supporting those students in much the same way as they have the international students from Ukraine. About 55% of all institutions responding to the IIE survey reported hosting international students from Russia in spring 2022.

A relatively small number of U.S. institutions (43) reported that they had some formal partnership with a Russian university. Over half of these institutions (56%) indicated that they had suspended the partnership during the war.

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The report concludes with the observation that U.S. colleges were able to pivot quickly during the pandemic by shifting to virtual learning, offering enhanced support to international students in the United States and abroad, and supporting more online study abroad opportunities for students.

It adds, “Over time, we have seen the resilience of international educational exchange, confirming that students want to travel abroad. U.S. institutions are prepared and ready to host them or send them on exciting academic adventures. The return to in-person learning, whether among international students or in U.S. study abroad, also confirms that students and faculty will prefer in-person experiences when possible. At the same time, we have learned that hybrid options offer opportunities to complement, though not replace, in-person study.”

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