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Fewer international applications to US colleges could have consequences for Mich. schools

Mar 27, 2017

A new survey has found that fewer international students are applying to universities in the United States.

The survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers says that nearly 40% of schools received fewer admissions from foreign students this year.

And lower international enrollment rates could harm universities in Michigan.

Juan Tavares is the director of International Admissions and Services at Western Michigan University. He says Western has seen a drop in applications since the November election.

This time last year, WMU had received 473 international applications to the undergraduate program. This year, that number fell by 30%.

Tavares noted that Western has especially received fewer applications from China, India, and the Middle East. Those same countries have lower application rates nationwide, according to the AACR survey.

“It’s not just that the numbers are lower,” says Tavares. “It’s that the attitude abroad has changed.”

President Trump’s travel bans and tough language on immigration are two factors that are influencing whether foreign students want to study in the U.S.

“Sentiment abroad is very negative towards the U.S.,” says Tavares.

Many universities in Michigan have made public statements speaking out against anti-immigration rhetoric and action.

WMU launched the “Welcome at Western” campaign in February in a show of support for international students that felt threatened by President Trump’s initial travel ban. The campaign encourages people to be vocal supporters of foreign students by printing posters and using supportive hashtags.

Tavares doesn’t think it’s fair to attribute the drop in applications solely to negative rhetoric. He says the rising value of the dollar and increased competition from Australian and Canadian universities are also important factors to consider.

But, he says, the reality is that international students and parents are concerned that the U.S. might not be very welcoming. And that’s an issue that universities alone may not be able to change.