UB continues to host thousands of international students each year, but its place near the top of the national leaderboard is slipping.
For the fourth straight year, UB saw a decline in both the number of international students it hosts and its place on the list of universities hosting international students in the U.S., according to a report by the organization Open Doors.
UB’s 2019-20 total — 6,733 — is the school’s lowest since the 2013-14 school year.
UB first saw a decline in 2017, when it hosted 7,126 international students, compared to 7,252 the year prior. That number continued to fall, to 7,121 in 2018-19 and 6,733 in 2019-20.
According to Open Doors, universities nationally hosted 1.8% fewer international students in 2019-20 than the year prior. This marks a worrying trend that began even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interim Vice Provost for International Education John Wood says international student enrollment numbers have been dwindling because of the Trump administration’s federal policies and rhetoric toward immigrants.
“There’s no question that this is partly due to federal policy that is less friendly to international students and other visitors,” Wood said.
Wood says UB emphasizes the strength of its educational programs, professional and career development opportunities and the “warm welcome provided by [the] campus community,” in its communication with international students.
The Open Doors numbers are from before the pandemic, yet experts expect the national trend to continue. The student enrollment numbers in the Open Doors report includes those on the Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa as well. UB is hosting 5,204 students — this number excludes those on their OPT, but includes students from the Singapore campus — for the 2020-21 academic year.
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Lee Melvin says UB expanded its virtual recruitment programs to adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic. He says UB is collaborating with current students, faculty and staff to conduct individual conversations with prospective students since in-person events cannot be conducted.
“Undergraduate admissions has conducted over 550 virtual recruitment sessions with students, parents and high school counselors,” Melvin said. “Graduate and professional programs have conducted similar recruitment events.”
Melvin says the UB Admissions team ramped up its website and social media presence to recruit new students during the pandemic. He says they increased the usage of videos and focused on improving virtual tours of the campus, dorms and the City of Buffalo to continue sharing the “UB story.”
“Maintaining and rebalancing our international student enrollment numbers remain a priority for UB, and we will continue to assist our students with all the challenges and rewards of pursuing an education in our outstanding academic programs,” Melvin said.
The decrease in international students doesn’t only impact campus life; it could also have a profound effect on the university’s financial state.
In UB’s Annual Operation Budget Report for 2020-21, the authors warn that the drop in international enrollment can have a sizable negative impact on the university’s financial plans.
“While the 2019-20 decline stabilized in several areas, the COVID-19 impact on international enrollment presents a major decline in tuition revenue generated per credit hour at the university for 2020-21,” the document reads. “Simultaneously, while undergraduate enrollment continues to grow, primarily from resident and Excelsior eligible students, this growth is in the group with the lowest tuition rates. It takes three resident undergraduate students to replace the lost tuition revenue from one [international] student.”
Vindhya Burugupalli is the senior engagement editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @vindhyab_
Vindhya Burugupalli is the engagement editor for The Spectrum. She loves traveling and documenting her experiences through mp4s and jpegs. In her free time, she can be found exploring cute coffee shops and food spots.