And as such, America has attracted increasing amounts of international students. From the 2005-2006 academic year over the next decade, the number of foreign-born students has increased every year, almost doubling in total by 2015-2016.
But now, that number might be poised to drop. According to a study from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, nearly 40 percent of American colleges are reporting a decline in international applications, while 35 percent say there’s been an increase.
In particular, colleges are seeing noticeably less applications from China, India and the Middle East, per the New York Times. In 2015-2016, the three countries with the most students in the U.S. were China, India and Saudi Arabia, per Project Atlas.
While the cost of higher education has risen dramatically in recent years, many are blaming the decline in foreign applications instead on the current rhetoric in the U.S. surrounding immigrants, especially given comments made by President Donald Trump.
“I’d say the rhetoric and actual executive orders are definitely having a chilling effect,” one president told the New York Times.
“Safety is a big concern for choosing which university to go to or even whether to go at all,” a student told NBC News.
In particular, students from India and the Middle East have taken note of increased media coverage of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant incidents in the U.S., particularly a bar shooting in Kansas in which a white man allegedly told two Indian engineers to “get out of my country” before opening fire, killing one and injuring the other, per the Hindustan Times.
However, the study also notes that other factors could be at play in the reported decline. The Trump administration has rolled back elements of the H1-B visa program, which provides visas for specialized jobs for international workers with bachelor’s degrees, and there are also reports and fears that student visas are being cut as well, according to the study’s authors.
U.S. News and World Report warns that a decline in international students could also have a significant economic impact on the United States. In 2015, just over a million enrolled foreign students generated $36 billion in the economy, according to the Department of Commerce.