International student enrollment dropping around the nation; Idaho isn't excluded

Posted at 10:40 AM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-09 16:25:47-05

CALDWELL — There isn't one answer as to why international student enrollment is down nationally.

“Increased competition from other countries is a big one, many students look to Canada, look to Australia, look to the U.K. for possible study options, so that’s definitely a big factor," said director of international admissions Brian Stelbotksy,

"I think political uncertainty can be part of that as well, students are just unsure of the situation at the moment, and that impacts that decision, I think.”

Boise State has 400 international students currently attending. International enrollment for the university peaked in 2015, with approximately 900 students. Stelbotsky says this number is due to a large influx of students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait between the years 2012 and 2015.

Beginning around 2016, the scholarship programs which made it possible for those students to attend Boise State practically disappeared. The numbers of international students diminished alongside it.

“We’ve declined a little bit at Boise State in overall enrollment (of) international student enrollment, but we for the fall 2019 semester had our largest class of international students in the last couple of years," said Stelbotsky.

The opposite is true of the College of Idaho's recent enrollments.

“This last year, we actually enrolled a record number of international students," Vice President of enrollment management for College of Idaho Brian Bava.

The college accepted fifty-five new students this year, totaling 190 students from 89 different countries overall. That accounts for 18% of the total student population.

A significant majority of their success comes from being a partner school of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, which helps bring scholarships to students at high schools throughout the world. According to the program, all graduates of their schools accepted to U.S. colleges qualify for need-based scholarships.

“You really break down cultural boundaries and understanding by having people from other parts of the world in a classroom and residential environment," said Bava.

An essential piece of the puzzle universities help students understand is the visa application process.

“If they make a move within one of the dorms here, say across the hall, we have to report that to SEVIS, because it’s a change of address, so ever since 9/11 that would have to be the biggest job for us I’d have to say," said director of inclusion department for College of Idaho Arnoldo Hernandez.

Nationally, there’s been a decline of nearly 8% in the number of education visas given out, or F-1 visas, from 2017 to 2018. It's an even more staggering decline of 44% since 2015. The universities tell me typically students return to their home country unless they continue their education, or their internships or jobs sponsor them.

“They have been sponsored, it’s been a while, it’s become a little more difficult to sponsor international students today," said Hernandez.

Students have many factors to consider before taking this journey; the visa process, travel expenses, and a new culture. So, there’s one question you might be wondering- why Idaho?

“Yeah, we ask that question a lot," said Bava.

There’s no one, universal answer to that, either. It might be the financial aid options or word of mouth or something entirely else.

“I think it’s really the attention students receive from faculty, staff their fellow students here in Idaho," said Bava.

6 On Your Side will continue to follow this story.