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Highlights from Higher Ed: International Student Trends, Harvard Ruling and Revenue Outlooks

Prospective international students say pandemic won’t change their plans to enroll in U.S. schools

Approximately 50% of prospective international students surveyed in August — and 67% of prospective immigrant students — said COVID-19 has not affected their plans to enroll at U.S. colleges and universities. Prospective international students are defined as “internationally educated immigrants with more permanent status in the U.S.” Among international students currently residing outside of the United States, 44% said they were “extremely” concerned about the how the pandemic might affect their health if they travel to the U.S., and 54% were equally concerned that it might impact their ability to obtain a visa and enter the country. “By far the most considered option for prospective international students is delaying enrollment at a U.S. institution, indicating that a U.S. education is still highly desirable for many.” Sixty-three percent of international students and 33% of internationally educated immigrants said they were likely to postpone enrollment at a U.S. institution as a result of the pandemic.


International student population shrank in 2019/2020

After a 1.8% decline in the number of international students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities last year, that group accounted for 5.5% of the overall student population, according to the Institute of International Education. The total number of international students dipped to 1,075,496 in 2019/2020, from 1,095,299 in 2018/2019. “During the 2019/2020 academic year, the United States remained the top destination for international students. New international student enrollment continued to stabilize (-0.6%) and showed marked improvement from a 7% decline over the previous two years.” China and India sent more students to the United States than any other countries: 372,000 and 193,124, respectively. “Among the top 20 places of origin, the largest percentage increases were students from Bangladesh (7%), Brazil (4%) and Nigeria (3%). Saudi Arabia saw the largest percentage decrease (-17%), primarily due to changes in its government’s scholarship program.”

Source: The Institute of International Education

Appeals court sides with Harvard in lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian American applicants

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has ruled that Harvard University’s admissions practices do not discriminate against Asian American applicants. “The university’s consideration of race and ethnicity, the court said in a lengthy opinion, is consistent with precedents affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.” A group called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued Harvard in 2014, alleging the school intentionally discriminated against Asian American applicants because it used quotas, “considered race as more than a ‘plus’ factor in admissions decisions,” and bypassed other alternatives for achieving goals related to diversity. In a ruling last year on that lawsuit, a federal judge wrote: “Ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race-conscious admissions. The use of race benefits certain racial and ethnic groups that would otherwise be underrepresented at Harvard and is therefore neither an illegitimate use of race or reflective of racial prejudice.” SFFA appealed that decision, leading to the recent ruling.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

North American higher-ed institutions are more likely to anticipate pandemic-related revenue declines

The leaders of North American colleges and universities are more concerned about the financial ramifications of COVID-19 than their peers elsewhere, “in part because they tend to rely more on auxiliary revenue, such as housing and dining, than colleges in other parts of the world.” While it’s common for schools to borrow to finance residential and dining facilities, “U.S. colleges that use debt to finance auxiliary facilities may struggle to make payments if revenue from those sources significantly declines.” Financial concerns are already a reality at many North American higher ed institutions: Approximately 10% have cut their workforce since the onset of the pandemic, and 70% planned to postpone new hiring.

Source: Education Dive