International applicants dramatically down at area universities

Wright State University provost Tom Sudkamp speaks at an international student celebration in November. WSU has seen a decline in international student applications of nearly 50 percent overall.
Wright State University provost Tom Sudkamp speaks at an international student celebration in November. WSU has seen a decline in international student applications of nearly 50 percent overall.

U.S. college applications from international students are dramatically down, including requests received by area universities that rely on the tuition revenue generated by the foreign applicants.

Around 39 percent of U.S. universities are reporting a decline in international applications for the fall semester while 26 percent saw no change and 35 percent saw an increase, according to a survey released last week by the Institute of International Education and several other organizations.

International students have a more than $1.1 billion impact in Ohio and generate hundreds of millions in tuition for universities every year as they are ineligible for federal aid and therefore typically pay full price for tuition.

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Wright State University and the University of Dayton have suffered the largest drops of major area universities.

All foreign student applications at WSU are down nearly 50 percent for fall semester compared to the same time last year. UD’s foreign undergrad apps are down 40 percent and requests for graduate school are down 15 percent.

“It’s huge and that’s not a lot different than other institutions,” said Jason Reinoehl, UD vice president of enrollment management and marketing. “It’s clear based on the trends that we’re seeing, (international students) are just kind of waiting, there’s uncertainty.”

College administrators believe the decline has been mostly cause by President Donald Trump’s campaign talk on immigration and his travel ban but also because of political shifts in other countries.

“We started tracking this eight months ago when the campaign really started to pick up and a lot of statements were being made,” Reinoehl said. “We started looking at the perception (the presidential campaign) was leaving with the international community.”

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Wright State’s decrease is the result of a more than 62 percent drop in undergrad applicants and a 47.7 decline in graduate apps at Wright State. Last year, Wright State has the fifth largest foreign student population in Ohio.

The application decrease at WSU follows a drop of around 400 international students this academic year which lost the university $10 million. The university is also in the midst of a financial crisis and must cut $25 million from its fiscal year 2018 budget.

“It’s a loss for the institution in terms of what they bring to the table in diversity and culture,” said Michelle Streeter-Ferrari, director of the WSU center for international education. “We also anticipate them being part of our community financially. For a university that’s financially strapped, it could help the institution.”

UD officials declined to release more detailed information on their international applications for fall 2017 since the university is still accepting them.

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UD has accepted about the same number of international students it had this time last year. Since 2014 UD has enrolled nearly the same number of international undergrads as students from the Dayton metro area.

Both universities will also continue to recruit international students through August, officials said, so they are hopeful that interest picks up.

Wright State and UD are the only major universities in the area that have experienced double-digit application drop-offs.

The University of Cincinnati had a 7 percent decrease in undergrad applications while Miami University has so far had a 4.2 percent drop among undergrads compared to this time last year. Graduate school applications were down 2 percent at Miami and rates were not available for UC as of Friday.

“It’s a step back but not a tumbledown,” said Susan Schauer, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of admissions at Miami.

Ohio State University’s undergrad rate is flat compared to last year while graduate applications are down by 8 percent so far, according to the university.

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As fewer international students apply in the United States, more are looking at Canada and Australia for a degree more than they used to, officials said. It’s a trend Nathan Balasubramanian, a student from India, noticed as some of his friends back home decided where to go to school.

Balasubramanian chose between the United States and the United Kingdom for college. While he likes Wright State, he said he may have chosen the UK or Canada had he foreseen Trumps politics and policies.

“Canada often served as a backup,” Balasubramanian said. “But, over there they don’t have to worry about the unstable politics of the government.”

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