Indian students in U.S. dropped 4.4% last year

The number of Indian students in the United States dropped 4.4% in 2019-20, the worst drop in over a decade, according to initial data released on Monday from a study funded by the U.S. government.

COVID-19 is likely to pull those figures down even further, with new international student enrolment in American universities crashing 42% in fall 2020. However, 90% of institutions reported that students have deferred enrolment by a year, meaning that many may be hoping to resume their plans to study in the U.S. next year.

China has bigger share

Key findings of Open Doors 2020, an annual survey conducted by the International Institute of Education in partnership with the U.S. State Department, showed that 18% of the one million international students in the U.S. are from India. Only China, with 35%, holds a bigger share of the international population in American institutions.

Indian students in U.S. dropped 4.4% last year

However, the number of Indian students in the U.S. dropped to 4.4 per cent to 1.93 lakh in 2019-20, after six straight years of growth. In fact, this is the sharpest decline since the 5 per cent fall in 2005-06.

The 2020-21 drop is likely to be steeper still, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey of fall enrolment at 700 institutions showed that 20 per cent of their international students are studying online this year. There is no data split available by country of origin for the 2020 enrolments.

Admissions deferred

The total number of international students — including those studying online — dipped 16 per cent. But new enrolments were the worst-hit, with a 43 per cent drop. The number of new international students who are in the U.S. and able to attend physical classes has slumped 72 per cent. Students may be adopting a wait-and-watch attitude — the institutions surveyed said 40,000 of their students had deferred fall admission to a future semester.

Online worries

For those who have chosen to study online, the challenges can be overwhelming.

“For international students signing into real-time studies during U.S. working hours, there are challenges of adapting their academic hours while living in different time zones,” said the report, adding that about half of the institutions surveyed said they were adapting course schedules to cope with such time differences.

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