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Why international enrolment growth could soon slow

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 11:35 am    Post subject: Why international enrolment growth could soon slow Reply with quote

Why international enrolment growth could soon slow

The most recent study on foreign student trends was just released last week, but the real question for American higher education is what the next report, one year from now, will show.

[This is an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, America’s leading higher education publication. It is presented here under an agreement with University World News.]

That’s because the latest report, while showing robust growth in overseas enrolments, relies on data from the past academic year, 2014-15. There are already signs, however, that the future outlook could be gloomier: The economy in China, which accounts for a third of all international students in the United States, has started to slow; its stock market crashed this summer.

Economic and political shifts could change or curtail government scholarship programmes in several countries that send tens of thousands of students here to study. And the results of a recent court case, which reversed an Obama administration decision expanding the time foreign science and engineering students can work after graduation, could have a chilling effect.

The possibility of slowing growth – never mind outright declines – should trouble the leaders of American colleges, who have come to rely on international students and the tuition dollars they bring.

To be clear, the current report, put out by the Institute of International Education, is good news for colleges. In 2014-15, nearly a million students from overseas studied on American campuses, a record number. The rate of growth, too, was near unprecedented, at 10%, the highest in 35 years.

Perhaps the brightest spot is India, which had seen several years of declines before showing a slight reversal in 2013-14. This year the second-largest sender of students is in full rebound, up almost 30%.

"India’s a substantial driver," says Peggy Blumenthal, senior counsellor to the president at the institute. "I don’t know if we would have predicted that a couple of years ago."

In real numbers, India and China rose by almost identical amounts, by about 30,000 students, though China’s percentage gain was significantly smaller, 11%.

This is one hint China’s growth could be softening – just a couple of years earlier its growth was double the current rate.

Evidence of a drop-off

Elsewhere there is evidence of a drop-off. The Council of Graduate Schools reports a dip in graduate-student applications from China for this fall. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security, which maintains a database of all student-visa holders in the United States, including grade-school students, says there were 29,000 fewer Chinese students in the country in September 2015 than in October 2014.

If Chinese numbers, which account for close to 60% of the international student increase in the past decade, were to decline, that could be worrisome for American institutions. Chinese students this past year contributed close to US$10 billion to the American economy, with much of that money going to colleges. Foreign student revenues have helped plug budgetary holes caused by the recession and declining taxpayer support.

And a surging India won’t solve a China slowdown. Even with the recent upswing, the number of Indian students who come to the United States is less than half of those from China. In fact, there are more students from China than the rest of the top five sending countries combined.

Complicating the picture, a couple of other countries that have experienced robust growth in recent years could be in for a serious slowdown. Brazil, which posted a 78% increase in this most recent report, will partially suspend a popular programme to send students in the sciences abroad.

In Saudi Arabia, a generous scholarship named for the late King Abdullah is likely to be revamped under his successor; most of the 60,000 Saudi students in America are here via the programme.

Nor are all the threats from overseas. In August, a federal judge ruled invalid an Obama administration decision to extend the time foreign students in high-demand majors can work in the United States after graduation to 29 months. The government last month proposed a rule to authorise the extension, but if it is not adopted, the current programme, which is often highlighted by colleges in their overseas recruitment, will expire in February.

With such uncertainty both domestically and abroad, many higher education officials will be looking at the trends like reading tea leaves – and eagerly anticipating next year’s data.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Slowed Saudi Education Spending Felt in U.S.
By Burton Bollag, Al Fanar Media | 28 February 2016

Washington, D.C.—The collapse in the price of oil is beginning to affect education spending in the oil-producing countries of the Gulf, and those changes are sometimes reflected on distant shores.

Many intensive English-language programs in the United States report they have begun to see substantial decreases in enrollments from Saudi Arabia. This is being viewed as a harbinger of the long-term educational effects of severely depressed oil prices. The kingdom appears to be cutting back on its scholarship program that has allowed tens of thousands of young Saudis to earn degrees at Western universities over the last decade.

The King Abdullah Scholarship Program, KASP, established in 2005, pays full tuition and living expenses for students in colleges and universities in many industrialized countries. A large majority are in the United States. The expensive program has grown rapidly; by the middle of last year it was supporting 96,000 undergraduate and graduate students at hundreds of institutions across America, according to Saudi education officials in the U.S. In addition, it was supporting 25,000 spouses and children of scholarship students. Most students start with a year or two of intensive English lessons.

It is these language programs that are feeling the first effects of the spending cuts. Most of the 451 member programs of the American Association of Intensive English Programs appear to have suffered significant declines in Saudi enrollments in the last month or two, according to Cheryl Delk-Le Good, the group’s executive-director. Of 92 members that answered questions sent out by Ms Delk-Le Good, in response to Al-Fanar Media’s query, 78 percent reported reduced enrollments of Saudi students compared to levels at the end of last year.

“The reductions are all over the map,” she says, “from 10 to 50 percent. Some programs reported they may need to lay off some adjunct faculty.” She added, “Some of our programs will end the lower-level foundation programs they had established in the last few years” to accommodate the portion of the young Saudi’s who had so little English that they could not handle normal beginner-level instruction. In addition, she says, some programs are likely to end the less academically oriented English classes they were offering for the dependents of Saudi students. “Our members are looking for new recruitment options to make up for the Saudi students, for example in China and Vietnam.”

The Saudi and international press have reported that a high-level council chaired by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that is looking at ways to rein in state spending called for reductions to the budget of the massive scholarship program. Official details have been hard to come by and the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, SACM, which supervises the scholarship students in the United States, declined requests from Al-Fanar Media for clarification.

But a staff member, and another person who occasionally works for SACM, both provided some details of the cuts, some of which were mentioned in recent press reports. (The two spoke anonymously since they were not authorized to give out information.)

The Saudi authorities seem to be tightening the rules for awarding scholarships. Previously the program had rather liberal criteria, for example accepting students interested in almost any field of study. Students who were not granted a scholarship while still in the kingdom could often get into it by paying for their own enrollment in an American institution and then later applying to enter the Saudi program. But starting last year, authorities began refocusing the program to support specific labor needs especially in the public sector. Under the slogan “Your Career, Your Scholarship,” the program is now favoring candidates who are employed by—or have a job offer from—a government agency.

Moreover, instead of the hundreds of colleges and universities across the U.S. that currently enroll Saudi scholarship students, the program will now focus on students who can gain acceptance at the top 100 American institutions. (It remains unclear, however, which list of the top 100 would be used). Scholarship students in their pre-academic English training may now be required to show a certain level of competence at the end of their first year to receive further support. In the past, scholarship students who graduated from an undergraduate program could fairly easily win state support for a graduate program. That will supposedly no longer be possible, and students will be required to return home at the end of their initial studies, and would have to apply from the kingdom for any further studies.

Finally, students who enroll on their own at an American institution must now supposedly pay for their own English-language study and then earn 30 undergraduate credits (or 9 graduate credits) before being eligible for a scholarship.

A decrease in scholarship students does not yet appear to have been felt in academic programs in the United States. But a number of institutions have built up their foreign enrollments with Saudi students in recent years and are waiting anxiously to see how they may be affected.

Four years ago Tennessee State University, the state’s only historically black public university, had only 79 international students. But in 2012 it began an aggressive program to recruit abroad and today has about 900 foreign students, over 600 of whom are Saudis. Initially, “when they came for orientation, I told them all: I want you each to bring three friends” from Saudi Arabia to enroll next term, says Jewell Winn, executive director of international programs at TSU. “They like to come in groups, and they just kept coming.” The most popular majors for the Saudis at Tennessee State are engineering, business administration, health information management, and graduate education, a typical selection for Saudis at other institutions as well. Winn says officials at SACM have not informed her of any plans to reduce Saudi enrollments. But she is concerned, and not only for the revenue the scholarship students bring. “It would be a disappointment,” she says. “For our students it is a good opportunity to be exposed to a foreign culture, which is something they often don’t have, especially at an historically black college.”

Other institutions report they have asked SACM, which employs several hundred student counselors and others at a recently built headquarters outside Washington DC, but have received no news about how they may be affected by the changes. Even administrators of the intensive English programs say they have not yet been informed by SACM about plans for the future of the program. “We have not seen a decrease yet” in Saudi enrollments, says Deanna Wormuth, director of the English as a Foreign Language program at Georgetown University, in Washington DC. But “for the last two or three months, [Saudi] students tell us they are getting new information. I believe we will see reductions. Many students may be limited to six months of [intensive English] study, which will be incredibly challenging to most.”

The scholarship program was started in 2005 by an agreement between Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who died in January 2014, and then U.S. president George W. Bush. The program was intended to bring the United States and Saudi Arabia closer together and to help repair damage done to the kingdom’s image by the revelation that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. The expensive program’s other key aim is to support the rapid modernization of Saudi Arabia by creating a large cadre of U.S.-trained professionals who could help run new schools, hospitals, administrations and businesses, as well as bringing new ideas to the deeply conservative but oil-rich kingdom.

In another sign of a cutting back of the kingdom’s educational spending, the annual International Exhibition & Conference on Higher Education that has been held in Riyadh, has been cancelled this year. More than 400 institutions from around the world typically attended the meeting to recruit Saudi students, and a one-day academic conference was held alongside the recruiting exhibition, with many participants flown in in business class at Saudi expense.

But now it seems the flow of students leaving the kingdom and the educators going to it will be slowing, at least in the immediate future.

(End of article)
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