New year, new views: Positivity toward US up among education agents in China and worldwide

Before 2020, souring diplomatic relations between China and the US counted among several variables that precipitated in a small-but-steady decline in international student enrollment at American universities. Compounded with the global COVID-19 pandemic and skepticism regarding the initial US coronavirus response, perceptions of the study destination worsened not only in China but around the world, contributing to what would become historic international enrollment losses.

Over the course of 2021, INTO conducted two global surveys of education counselors and agents to gauge sentiment toward different destination countries as the pandemic continued — one in spring, and one in fall. The surveys show that, in the last year, perceptions of the US as a study destination have improved significantly in the China, Hong Kong and Macau (CHKM) region, and across the globe. Simultaneously, the latest Open Doors and visa issuance data suggest student demand is rebounding, too.

Although the emergence of the Omicron variant has renewed anxieties around international educational exchange — more so in some regions than others — these findings serve as strong signs that US international higher education is on the road toward recovery.

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All hands on deck: Helping international students navigate the COVID-19 crisis

In the wake of COVID-19, universities’ social distancing policies require that international students complete coursework and advising sessions virtually.

Even in the best of times, international students’ decision to travel across the globe in search of education opportunities is courageous.  Their journey is one of hope, aspiration, and, of course, some trepidation as they step into the unknown.  When these students embarked on their studies abroad this year, however, a global pandemic added new layers of concern and uncertainty to their experience, sending them into uncharted waters.

The jobs of student experience specialists on whom these students rely to help them navigate uncertainty in their studies has never been so critical or challenging as they are during the COVID-19 crisis.  We reached out to colleagues on the front lines across INTO’s university partnerships in the United States to learn more about their all-hands-on-deck approach to supporting international students in these uncertain times.

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INTO North America: Year in review

As 2019 concludes, those in the international education community in the United States have much to reflect on.  In November, the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) 70th Open Doors Report revealed that it has been a uniquely challenging year for international student enrollment.  Although the nationwide decline in new international student enrollments (NSEs) slowed from -6.6% in 2017/18 to -0.9% in 2018/19, 51% of American higher education institutions reported a decrease in NSEs in 2019.

For INTO’s 12 American university partners, however, there were a great deal of international student enrollment and education milestones in 2019—proof that there is every reason to believe things can only get better in the American international education realm.

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