An annual report on international students shows a nearly 10 percent drop in foreign students who attended U.S. community colleges in the 2016-17 academic year, and that rate may double for the current school year.
The number of new international students enrolling in U.S. associate-degree granting institutions decreased from 29,328 in 2015-16 to 26,584 in 2016-17, according to “Open Doors 2017” from the Institute of International Education (IIE). New students also represented a smaller portion of all international students attending public two-year colleges — about 28 percent in 2016-17, compared to 31 percent the previous year.
An accompanying IIE “snapshot” survey — which takes a first look at international enrollments for the current academic year — shows a 19 percent drop among new international students at U.S. community colleges.
While all types of U.S. higher education institutions reported falling new international student numbers, master’s-degree and associate-degree colleges saw the biggest drops — 20.1 percent and 19.3 percent, respectively — according to the survey. The report attributed the decreases, in general, to problems with visa delays and denials, the cost of U.S. higher education, and the U.S. social and political climate.
The reported decreases are of significant concern to community colleges. The presence of international students is an important way to internationalize U.S. campuses and local communities, especially where a variety of obstacles often prevent domestic students from traveling abroad, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Also, international students at community colleges help local economies. In 2014, AACC reported that the students contributed $2.6 billion to the national economy.
Mostly Asian students
Students from Asia comprise the top four places of origin of international students at associate-degree colleges, accounting for more than 40 percent. China itself makes up 20 percent, followed by Vietnam (9.9. percent), South Korea (6.6 percent) and Japan (5.5 percent). Mexico was fifth at 4.3 percent.
Houston Community College had the most number of foreign students among community colleges in 2016-17 with 5,982, followed by Santa Monica College (3,532) in California, Lone Star College (3.025) in Texas, California’s De Anza College (2,792) and Northern Virginia Community College (2,027).
International students who attended U.S. community colleges comprised 96,472 of the more than 1 million international students who went to a U.S. higher education institution in 2016-17. That’s roughly 9 percent.
Overall, international students represent about 1.4 percent of all U.S. community college students, according to the report.
Only about 6,905 U.S. community college students studied abroad in 2016-17, comprising a fraction of all 325,339 U.S. students studying abroad. Mirroring the overall trend, more than half of these community college students studied in Europe, mainly Italy (13.5 percent), Spain (12.2 percent) and the United Kingdom (9.7 percent).
More than a quarter of the students (27.6 percent) studied in Latin America (8.5 percent in Costa Rica and 4.2 percent in both Cuba and Mexico), compared to 16.3 percent among all U.S. college students abroad.
Nearly 10 percent of associate-degree students studied in Asia (3.7 percent in China and 3.5 percent in Japan).
Two-year colleges had greater diversity among its student studying abroad than other higher education institutions. More than 61 percent were white, compared to more than 71 percent among all U.S. colleges and universities. About 23 percent were Hispanic or Latino (compared to about 10 percent at all colleges), and nearly 9 percent were black/African-American, compared to about 6 percent at all U.S. higher education institutions.
The top five community colleges sending students abroad in 2016-17 were Tarrant County College in Texas (276), College of DuPage in Illinois (180), Miami Dade College in Florida (171), Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee (166) and Kirkwood Community College in Iowa (161). Eleven of the top 20 community colleges sending students abroad were in California. Three were in Florida.