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The number of international students in undergraduate and graduate programs decreased in the 2018-19 academic year, according to a report from the Institute of International Education made public Monday.

Several universities in Arkansas also have reported declines in their international enrollments.

The Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors report, released Monday, provides information on the number of international students in undergraduate, graduate and nondegree programs, plus those in practical training.

The decline in undergraduate enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities ended 12 straight years of growth of a crucial source of tuition revenue for colleges and universities. The enrollment of international undergraduate students fell by 2.4%, to 431,930 students in 2018-19.

The total for international graduate students fell by 1.3%, to 377,943 students.

Information published online by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville lists the international student total as 1,433 in fall 2018, or 5.2% of its total enrollment. The total was down less than 2% compared with the 1,461 international students enrolled at UA in fall 2017.

This fall, UA's international enrollment has fallen again, by about 3% to 1,384, according to preliminary enrollment totals. China is the top country of origin for UA's foreign students, according to information provided to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansas State University has also seen a decline in the enrollment of international students, according to Thilla Sivakumaran, the university's executive director of global engagement and outreach.

Data published by the university in Jonesboro shows fall 2018 international enrollment of 630 students, down about 12% from 714 in fall 2017.

In September, the university announced preliminary enrollment totals for this fall and stated that international enrollment had decreased by 10.2%.

"Regional institutions are affected more than 'flagship' institutions," Sivakumaran said in an email.

Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, which in past years has had a large international student population, enrolled 397 international students in the 2018-19 academic year, said spokeswoman Caleigh Moyer.

Data provided by Moyer also showed a trend of declining international enrollment, with the 2018-19 international enrollment down about 46% compared to the 2017-18 academic year, when the university enrolled 730 international students, according to Moyer.

For the current academic year, 2019-20, Southern Arkansas University has 214 enrolled international students, according to data provided by Moyer. India is the top country of origin for international students at Southern Arkansas University, Moyer said.

In a statement, Moyer said the numbers change from year to year "for many reasons such as the number of visas approved by the state department, saturation of the market, and competition with other universities in the U.S. and abroad such as in Canada and Australia."

Nationally, some schools have blamed President Donald Trump's rhetoric against immigrants for driving students away, but officials at the State Department, which pays for the annual Open Doors report, dismissed the idea.

Caroline Casagrande, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said students are deterred by the high cost to attend U.S. schools.

The Open Doors report found that the number of newly enrolled international students, compared to the year before, dipped by 1% in fall 2018 to 269,383 students.

That follows decreases of 7%, to 271,738 new international students in 2017-18, and 3%, to 290,836 in 2016-17. These were the first downturns in more than a decade.

Casagrande said the downturn is tied to students who were applying to college during the Obama administration, and that the numbers appear to be rebounding under Trump.

"What we've seen today is a dramatically better picture compared to last year's declines," Casagrande said during a call with reporters. "The Trump administration has dedicated more resources than ever to international student mobility."

While fewer new students are coming, the study found that more are staying for professional training after they graduate. More than 220,000 were granted permission to stay for temporary work through a federal program, an increase of about 10% over fall 2017.

Overall, the Open Doors study counted 1,095,299 international students in the United States in 2018-19, a record total, up about 500 from the year before.

Nationally, China continued to send more students than any other country, followed by India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press and The Washington Post.

Metro on 11/19/2019

Print Headline: Foreign student total falls in state

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