UHCL is among several universities around Texas that this year have seen a sharp drop in international enrollment, as the number of international student applications to four-year public universities has plummeted by more than 10,000 after three years of growth, according to recently compiled data.
Experts and college administrators blame a number of factors, including President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during the 2016 campaign and in office, as well as the global economy.
The decline is significant because regional universities such as UHCL depend more on tuition revenue amid uncertain state funding from Texas lawmakers. International students pay higher tuition than in-state students, and their decline is forcing some Texas campuses to question if – and how – to recruit them moving forward.
“When we were seeing heavy (enrollment by) international graduate students, we had a lot more revenue,” said Jean Carr, UHCL’s executive budget director. “Now, seeing the decline, we’re having to figure out how to cover that shortfall.”
Universities tried to stem the decline in international students. Colleges extended deadlines, offered more support in the application process and launched marketing campaigns that told prospective students that they were welcome in Texas.
It wasn’t enough.
Overall, about three-quarters of four-year public universities in Texas saw declines in international student enrollment this fall, a Houston Chronicle review of preliminary university data found.
About 23 percent of the 35 institutions saw an uptick in international students. Two institutions either reported no change or did not report preliminary enrollment figures.
From 2013 to 2015, international student enrollment in reporting Texas schools grew from 36,703 to 45,609 students. International student enrollment declined slightly in 2016 and then dropped by more than 2,000 students this fall.
Some of the sharpest declines came at regional universities that lack the name recognition of universities with large-scale athletic programs or top-of-the-line research heft.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley lost more than 100 international students, a 14 percent decline. Texas A&M University at Commerce saw a drop of more than 180 students (a 22 percent drop), while Lamar University in Beaumont lost more than 350 international students (a 37 percent reduction).
Meanwhile, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin saw small increases in international student enrollment of less than 2 percent each.
See here for the background. This is one of those things that I fear once we lose it we’ll never get it back, at least not to where it was before. At the national level, and at the state level, we have made ourselves worse off for no good reason and no benefit in return. This is just one example of far too many.