IIE Report Shows Steep Decline in Number of International Students Attending U.S. Colleges and Universities
November 16, 2020

The Institute of International Education (IIE) today released its Fall 2020 Enrollment Snapshot showing a 43 percent decrease in international student enrollment at U.S. institutions this fall.

In a statement, ACE President Ted Mitchell called the drop “staggering but, unfortunately, not surprising.” He urged the incoming Biden-Harris administration and the new Congress “to move quickly to ensure that the United States preserves its status as the destination of choice for the world’s most talented international scholars and students.”

In addition to the 2020 snapshot, IIE and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs released the 2020 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange with data from the 2019-20 academic year, providing a baseline on the state of international education exchange prior to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key findings from the 2019-20 academic year include:

  • 1,075,496 international students studied in the United States.
  • This was a slight decline (1.8 percent) from the previous year, but new international enrollment continued to stabilize after a plunge in 2017 and 2018
  • China and India remained the top sources of international students.
  • Over half (52 percent) of international students in the U.S. pursued majors in STEM fields of study.
  • Study abroad participation increased 1.6 percent over the previous year.

The data from these two reports show that international higher education community and policymakers must come together to rebuild what was disrupted by the pandemic, as well as by the “climate of harsh rhetoric on immigration and concrete actions taken by the Trump administration,” according to Mitchell.