Foreign exchange progresses against national decline

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For the second year in a row, the United States has seen a decline in foreign exchange student enrollment. The United States is still the top destination for foreign exchange students, but the number of students enrolling has dropped by 6.6 percent within the 2017-2018 academic year.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to this decline in enrollment. Politics being a large aspect of this. More causes of this are intensifying competition from universities in other countries and the rising cost of college in the United States. International students have many more choices now, and this means there is competition from other countries.

The flattening in levels of students began in the 2015-2016 academic year, so the decline cannot be deemed entirely political. Other countries, such as Australia, have seen a rise in enrollment numbers, so it is clear competition from other countries plays into it as well.

“Our international enrollments are stall and stable, so we are less likely to see a discernible impact,” Stephen Prag, Director of International Programs at Pacific University, said. “There are a lot of factors intertwined, so we can’t say politics is the only reason, and a precise assessment would be really difficult and would require a lot of research.”

It takes more than a year or two to really assess the impact of the current political climate, so maybe in time institutions of higher education will see a more discernible impact on the levels of enrollment.

Pacific University’s undergraduate enrollments are low anyways, but have not changed recently, and our graduate program enrollments are quite specialized and stable.

At Pacific, there are 160 international students. Within this statistic there exists 15 degree-seeking and 20 non-degree seeking undergraduate students, as well as 80 optometry and 23 non-optometry graduate students.

In terms of the optometry program, applicants are thinking about program quality and proximity to home over the current political climate.

Currently, the biggest sending country is Canada, from which Pacific has 72 students enrolled in the College of Optometry.

The bulk of of the university’s international students also come from, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan as a result of strong partnerships. These partnerships are less subject to political atmospherics and attract students that have a strong academic interest in coming to the United States, and specifically our corner of the globe.


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