International student enrollment at the University of Oregon dropped for the third year in a row, following a national trend of decreasing numbers of international students in the U.S. for the past two years.
This year alone, enrollment of international students dropped nearly 2 percent at UO, totaling a loss of just under 400 international students between 2017 and 2018, according to the UO student demographics report.
Nationally, undergraduate international student enrollment decreased 6.6 percent in 2017, continuing a decreasing trend first spotted in 2015, according to the Open Doors report on international student exchange.
At UO, a report on retention at the university from Institutional Research shows international student retention is higher than domestic student retention — meaning this decrease is coming from a lack of new students.
“Our international student retention is good, stronger than domestic students. Once you’re here, it seems that you’ve kind of made a commitment to be here,” Dennis Galvan, professor and vice provost for international affairs, said.
Last year, 91.1 percent of international students returned for a second year at UO, while 86.5 percent of in-state students and 84 percent of out-of-state students returned, according to a report from Institutional Research.
It is too soon to tell if the Trump administration’s travel ban and immigration policies have had an effect on international student enrollment, Galvan said.
“We don’t know whether immigration restriction issues are having an impact. They might be, but we just don’t know for sure,” Galvan said.
Galvan said he thinks this drop is due to the Chinese economy slowing.
“We know that for the last bunch of years, a lot of our students come from mainland China,” Galvan said. “The economy in China is cooling off a little bit, and so that’s going to mean fewer students going abroad — we know that for sure.”
According to the 2018 Open Doors report, the number of Chinese international students coming to American universities has been increasing; however, its increase has slowed substantially over the years.
The report, released by the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, states that the number of Chinese international students enrolled at American universities was up 21.4 percent in 2012. In 2017, its output was up 3.6 percent.
At UO, Galvan said the number of students applying to UO from China has decreased.
According to data provided by university spokesman Kelly McIver, application rates from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Western hemisphere have increased over the past two years.
The number of applications that come from China are not available at this time, McIver said. The admissions department personnel that could provide these numbers could not be reached at the time of publication.
McIver said increased application rates do not directly lead to increased enrollment, but they are still “positive indicators.”
Galvan said the decrease in international students on campus could have an impact on the financial state of the university.
International students pay non-resident tuition, which is the same amount of tuition that out-of-state students pay.
“The university does rely on tuition. So if we have fewer students in general, we have less tuition dollars,” Galvan said.
Brian Sun, an international student from China and the outreach director for the International Student Association, said he thinks social barriers could be the reason for the decrease in international students on campus.
“I feel that if you are an international student here, you want to feel welcomed, but I don’t feel that we are being welcomed enough here at the university,” Sun said.
Sun is a peer mentor for International Student and Scholar Services and has been volunteering for international student orientation for over two years.
Sun said he feels international students have to try harder to have a relationship with domestic students.
“In order to just have a normal college life, [domestic students] don’t need to have any relationships with international students. But as international students, we need [relationships with] domestic students to have a better life here,” Sun said.
Remi Tanida, a junior international student majoring in international studies, said international students should be valued more on campus because of what they can contribute to the classroom.
“If international students come to the UO, they can provide their own perspectives and different points of view,” Tanida said.
Tanida is a peer mentor for the ISSS. She said she wanted to be a peer mentor because when she was a freshman at UO, she didn’t have a mentor and it made transitioning to UO much harder.
The university is working to improve the number of new students through increasing international recruitment efforts, Galvan said.
For example, UO employees have been permanently placed in Beijing and Singapore to answer international students’ questions and increase outreach. They are hoping to set up another employee in India in the next year.
The university offers $750,000 in scholarships each year exclusively for international students. These scholarships are both merit and need based, Galvan said.
“International students are a critical part of diversity on campus,” Galvan said. “Our learning experience is enhanced because people bring different questions and different answers and different perspectives.”