President Trump has taken steps to discourage foreign enrollment in American universities, and, in combination with the pandemic, that effort has succeeded: The number of international students studying in the US has dropped for the fourth consecutive year. This fall, new enrollment fell 43%, while total enrollment of international students decreased 16%. MarketWatch notes the pandemic had a significant effect on this year's numbers: Foreign students couldn't get visas from shuttered embassies and consulates, and some were likely held back from coming to the US by their parents over health concerns. The Trump administration's shifting rules on what students could stay amid the pandemic also caused confusion. "While not surprising, it is disheartening," says Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, on the decline.
This drop comes at a cost to US students, as well as to national and local economies, the Conversation reports. Nearly 90% of undergrad foreign students, for example, bring money in from abroad to pay for school—a boost to the US economy, and also to American students, who benefit from lower tuition. Local economies gain from international enrollment, too: Stats from the NAFSA nonprofit show that foreign students pumped $38.7 billion into the US economy last year, supporting more than 415,000 US jobs, as well as local housing, restaurants, retailers, and other economic sectors. Meanwhile, falling birth rates since the Great Recession in 2008-09 will lead to even further dips in US college enrollment overall after 2025, when babies born then head to college. And because the pandemic will have even worse economic impact than the 2008 crisis, colleges could see more of that enrollment decline after 2037—numbers that could be offset by recruiting foreign students. (Read more colleges and universities stories.)