Of the colleges surveyed, 26% reported a decline in undergraduate applications from India and 25% reported a decline from China.
“Nearly 40% of US colleges are seeing declines in applications from international students, and international student recruitment professionals report ‘a great deal of concern’ from students and their families about visas and perceptions of a less welcoming climate in the US,” said the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) announcing preliminary findings of a survey of 250 colleges recently.
But “35% reported an increase, and 26% reported no change in applicant numbers”.
The largest drop was reported by institutions for applicants from the Middle East, some of whose Muslim-majority nations have been targeted for travel bans by the new administration — no new visas for six countries — and others for flight restrictions on electronic devices.
But the Middle East accounted for only 10,000 international students enrolled in US colleges in 2015-2016, which is a little under 10% of the total cohort.
The largest drops were reported from India and China, who together made up 47% of the international students in 2016, totalling almost half a million, according to Open Door, a government-funded body that studies and tracks international students and scholars.
Of the colleges surveyed, 26% reported a decline in undergraduate applications from India and 25% reported a decline from China. And the drop in applications for graduate courses was 15% from India and 32% from China.
The study found that concerns about the current climate in the United States was the highest among applicants from the Middle East (79)%, Asia (36%) and Latin America (34%).
The concerns and worries were chiefly, the survey found, one, “perceptions of a rise in student visa denials at US embassies and consulates in China, India and Nepal”; two, “perception that the climate in the US is now less welcoming to individuals from other countries; three, “concerns that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, especially around the ability to travel, re-entry after travel, and employment opportunities; and fourth, and finally, “concerns that the Executive Order travel ban might expand to include additional countries”.
There has been a spike in anti-Muslim sentiments in the US in recent years starting with the San Bernardino terrorist attack in December 2015, that were tapped and stoked by the Trump campaign and now his administration. Trump’s travel orders banning fresh visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority nations have only exacerbated this.
While the “perception” of a rise in visa denials in India could not be confirmed, the decline in the number of Indian applicants could have been fuelled more by a sense of insecurity in the aftermath of the Kansas killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and reports of subsequent attacks and abuse — Indians being told to go back to their own country, mistaken for Middle-Easterners in some instances.