Application numbers reflect decreasing international student interest in MU

For fall 2016, MU experienced a decrease in enrollment percentages for international students for the first time since 2006.

Graduate school applications from international students have dropped this year, following a trend at many universities across the country.

MU graduate applications were down 11 percent overall as of March 15. International applications were down 16 percent, director of Graduate Admissions and Student Services Terrence Grus said in an email.

Although enrollment numbers will not be released until the fall, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said in an email that the university will likely see a decrease in international students next semester.

Basi cited the political climate, including recent executive orders and changes to immigration policy, as a reason for decreasing interest in MU and other American universities.

“Based on incidents that have happened around the country, many prospective students and their families have said that they do not feel safe coming to the United States,” he said.

Mojtaba Khajeloo, a doctoral student and president of the Iranian Student Association, said President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from Iran and five other countries might be a factor in the decline in applications.

“[The ban] is unfair,” he said. “Almost everyone is afraid of leaving this country and coming back. Their families cannot get here. The students that are graduating are worried about the job market, and there might be a visa issue for these people.”

Grus said the majority of graduate applicants affected by the ban are from Iran.

A survey from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers showed that out of 250 universities, 39 percent reported a decline in international student applications.

More than two-thirds of international students at MU are graduate students, according to the Fall 2016 Enrollment Summary Report.

That same report also shows enrollment numbers for both international undergraduate and graduate students increased between 2006 and 2015. But, in the fall of 2016, those numbers dropped.

A decline in applications does not necessarily mean there will be fewer graduate students in any given department, since there are typically more applicants than graduate positions available. However, the decline has raised concerns about competitiveness of graduate programs.

Khajeloo said fewer applicants could endanger the university’s role as a research institution.

“In my view, grad students have a lot to do with the research quality of the university,” he said. “It's going to be non-competitive if the university goes in that direction [and loses students].”

Though the travel ban is the most recent development that could affect international student enrollment, several factors, including US economic conditions and foreign interest in Midwest universities, can affect application numbers, Grus and Basi said.

“The strong US dollar has made a U.S. education more expensive for students from most countries around the world and driven applications to schools with top rankings and those with more aggressive international scholarships,” Basi said in an email.

For students applying from the nations affected by the travel ban, Grus said the university is working with applicants on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re trying to work individually with applicants,” Grus said. “I think we had one applicant outside of Iran, and from the six countries [included in the travel ban], all but one were from Iran. So we’ve been working with them on a case by case basis.”

Edited by Zia Kelly |

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