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Barriers for International Students in 2020 and 2021 Predictions

Wright State UCIE office / Photograph: Emily Linker / WSU Guardian

Wright State UCIE office | Photo by Emily Linker |The Wright State Guardian

The United States has always been attractive to international students to pursue quality higher education. But 2020 was the year of complete uncertainty for people who decided to start their studies in the fall.

International students’ anxiety 

The summer of 2020 made both international students who were already in the U.S. and those who stayed abroad anxious regarding their studies. On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that foreign students at US universities would not be able to take an entirely online course load and stay in the US. But fortunately, this order was reversed several days later. . Thus, constant changes in immigration policy were major signals for future students to defer their studies to better times. 

Limited access to U.S. embassies

Many U.S. embassies decided to cancel student visa appointments since the beginning of the global pandemic. But in August, because of the start of the fall 2020 semester, U.S. embassies in some countries resumed limited visa appointments. 

Those future students who were located in a country with an open embassy were lucky to get visas as well as students who decided to travel to another country for a visa interview. Many embassies still remain closed due to the coronavirus situation without further instructions for students when they will be open again. 

Personal safety and travel restrictions 

Sometimes health comes first before other life plans, so students decide to stay home and wait until the college environment will be safer for in-person classes. Since tuition for international students is usually higher, they prefer to pay and travel overseas in order to experience the American college life and get qualitative knowledge and hands-on experience. Moreover, having an international flight may also be a risk especially during a decreased number of flights worldwide.

Predictions for 2021

In fall 2020, the number of international students studying in the U.S dropped by 16% because of the pandemic according to an article by CNBC on international education. Since the beginning of the year, many international students were still not able to come to the U.S. for their studies. Hopefully, someday the unstable situation will change. 

A significant drop in new international student enrollment during the pandemic may stimulate schools to recruit more students and promote their programs abroad. Attracting more international students can increase the possibility of keeping the U.S. at the lead position of top destinations for obtaining a higher education.

Olha Zuban

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