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As Many Colleges Lose International Students, NKU And UC See Boost

Charles Deloye

In many cases, U.S. universities are losing millions of dollars because enrollment of international students has not reached 2019 levels.

A nationwide effort is underway to boost the enrollment of international students who traditionally pay full price and bring in a lot of money for colleges and universities.

The number of foreign students is down 20% after reaching a peak in 2018-2019.

NPR reported a couple of reasons why:

  • Australia, Canada and the U.K. are attracting more students
  • There’s a hostility to foreigners, including a rise in Asian hate crimes
  • Students are looking for more affordable options and a degree in three years
  • Some fear gun violence
  • COVID continues to be a factor

Even before the pandemic, Northern Kentucky University had a commitment to attract more international students. It broadened its appeal to more countries. That strategy seems to be working despite challenges others have seen.

"For fall of 2021 we had a near record enrollment of new international students," says Francois LeRoy, executive director for NKU's Center for Global Engagement and International Affairs. "That was made up of students who weren't completely new, others who had deferred and others who had started online and then were now able to join us in-person."

LeRoy says the university's commitment to increasing international students is paying off in South and Southeast Asia, as well as Western and Eastern Africa.

He says the students are dedicated and described how Nepali students had to take a two-day train trip each way to get a visa.

The University of Cincinnati says it is not seeing a decline of foreign students. Spokesperson M.B. Reilly says, “Our total international enrollment for fall 2021 now stands at 3,633. Pre-COVID in fall 2019, it stood at 3,475.”

She explains why this might be. “UC tends to attract international students from more than one country and we also credit our work early in the COVID crisis in working with international students to ensure that they could continue to take virtual courses and make progress towards their degree regardless of where they were located.“

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.