Since the recent presidential change, there has been a lot of focus on the issue of immigration and foreign policy. The tension this subject brought had many international students and colleges alike holding their breath.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, the rate of international student enrollment decreased sharply in fall 2017 for many colleges. In the past numbers steadily increased, sometimes even doubling in number, in the United States since the 1950s.
The New York Times reported 45 percent of college campuses reported drops in international enrollment in fall 2017. The schools that have experienced the greatest decrease in numbers have been those from the Midwest.
Places like the University of Central Missouri lost more than half of their foreign enrollment, going from 2,638 students to 994, according to The New York Times.
Many of the small colleges are affected financially. According to The Department of Commerce, international students bring approximately $39 billion into the United States annually. Due to the steady increase in enrollment throughout the years, many colleges have come to financially rely on the international students.
The higher educational system is still unsure as to why the decrease has happened so suddenly. Some attribute it to the recent presidential campaign which focused greatly on the subject of immigration.
“Concerns around the travel ban had a lot to do with concerns around personal safety,” said Rajika Bhandari, head of research for the Institute of International Education, according to The New York Times.
Increased competition from other countries hosting international students could also be a contributing factor to the decrease. According to World Atlas, the United Kingdom has the largest enrollment, behind the U.S., hosting about 10 percent of the world’s international student population.
BYU-Idaho has been standing out in comparison to many college campuses as it has seen an increase in its number of international students. According to the International office, international enrollment is at an all-time high.
There are currently 3,208 international students, including campus and online enrollment, whereas just one year prior, in fall 2016, there were 2,490 international students enrolled.
Wai Lam, a sophomore, came from Hong Kong to study child development at BYU-I. She said there were fewer college options where she lived, and here, she had the opportunity to study alongside fellow members of the Church.
“We start with a prayer; it really helps me to see things in another way and appreciate the gospel more,” Lam said. “It is nice that the people around me believe the same things as well. It helps keep me centered.”
Cheick Omar Fall, a freshman, moved to Idaho from Burkina-Faso, a small country in West Africa, to study communication. The Church is not established in his country, and he was looking for a religious learning environment.
“I wanted to continue learning after my mission,” Fall said. “I was worried I was just going to fail. I’ve never been to a school where I had to speak English.”
To Fall, it is a relief to find there is so much help available from tutoring centers and faculty members.
According to The Post Register, the increase in general enrollment is due to BYU-I’s Pathway program that allows students from all over the world to get a college degree.