CHICAGO — The number of international students attending Illinois colleges and universities increased last year, but not as much as it has in previous years.
Illinois schools enrolled 52,225 international students for the 2016-2017 year, which is a 3.8 percent increase from the previous academic year, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors study.
In the previous three years, the increases have been 8.1 percent, 9.5 percent and 8.7 percent, the Chicago Tribune reported.
International students in Chicago said U.S. universities offer some of the best research opportunities in the world. But students and study officials agreed that political changes in the U.S. are impacting the market for recruiting international students, though full effect may not be known for a few years.
Multiple attempts by President Donald Trump administration to institute a travel ban have confused universities and prospective students, prompting some students to consider other options.
Sankul Rawat, a University of Illinois at Chicago graduate student, said many of his peers in India are choosing Canada over the U.S.
“Actually the main reason (for) this shift is because of the politics,” Rawat said. “Because right now students are thinking about how these immigration policies are going to change. Everyone is skeptical (about the) travel ban — (or) if there is any kind of ban.”
The study didn’t include complete data since Trump was elected last November.
Most of the nearly 500 schools surveyed reported increases in international student enrollment, though 45 percent showed drops. Study president Allan E. Goodman called the findings “a wake-up call” for colleges and university to reassess recruitment strategies.
“There’s continuing concern about cost, there’s continuing concern about campus safety, concerns about the complexity of our application process,” Goodman said. “That has been evident over the past couple of years. We’ll know a lot more next year.”