International student enrollment in the US fell 15 percent during the 2020-2021 academic year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest drop since government and nonprofit organizations began logging data in the late 1940s.
A total of 914,095 international students were enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities last school year, according to data collected by the Institute of International Education and released Monday along with the State Department. That reflects a drop from nearly 1.1 million last year due to the ravages of the pandemic.
Broad travel restrictions and delayed visa processing limited international student enrollment, said Mirka Martel, chief of research, evaluation and learning at IIE. Many US consulates abroad have suspended operations as the pandemic spread, or provided limited services.
“The 2021 academic year was a historic moment for international exchange and student mobility due to the global shock of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Martel said during a briefing Monday morning. “Many international students were unable to travel to the United States due to travel restrictions.”
The number of new students fell by 46 percent, the main driver of the overall drop of 15 percent. Current student enrollment was much more resilient, falling by just 3 percent.