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### Surge in International Graduate Student Enrollment Following Pandemic Decline

International postgraduate student enrollment in 2023 saw a notable increase following a downturn in 2020 due to the pandemic. The number of international graduate students surged from 875 in fall 2022 to 1,138 in fall 2023, marking a 30.1 percent rise that exceeded the pre-pandemic enrollment of 1,029 students in fall 2019. This upward trend began in fall 2021, with the international graduate student population growing from 508 to 765, a 50.6 percent increase, subsequent to a sharp decline in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a March Faculty Senate meeting, Provost Chris Bracey attributed the rise in international student numbers to the University’s expanded marketing efforts targeting students beyond the United States. Bracey highlighted a significant decrease in Chinese students attending the institution, noting China’s longstanding status as the leading source of international students in the U.S.

The Provost emphasized that the growth at the graduate level was primarily driven by increased international enrollment in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, which saw a rise from 586 enrolled international graduate students in 2022 to 726 in 2023. Bracey underscored the progress made in nearing pre-pandemic graduate student levels, crediting much of the success to diversifying international student recruitment efforts.

Furthermore, Bracey mentioned the surge in international enrollment from countries such as India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, and Nigeria. Efforts to enhance outreach and recruitment strategies for international students, including the establishment of “microtrend committees” to monitor short-term market changes, were announced in 2021 to address the decline in international student enrollment post-pandemic.

Mary Churchill, the director of the higher education program at Boston University, speculated that factors such as COVID-19 and U.S. diplomatic relations contributed to the increase in international graduate student enrollment. Churchill highlighted China’s stringent zero-COVID policy and prolonged border closures, which significantly impacted international student mobility, particularly from China.

In addition, Churchill discussed the implications of Brexit on international student mobility, noting the challenges faced by students entering the U.K. post-Brexit. The discontinuation of EU funds for students moving to the U.K. led to increased living expenses, prompting students to consider the U.S. as a more cost-effective alternative.

Churchill also addressed the impact of the Trump administration’s foreign policy on international relations, contrasting it with the more welcoming approach of the Biden administration. The Biden administration’s initiatives aimed at facilitating visa processes for international students have contributed to creating a more inclusive environment within the U.S.

Teboho Moja, a professor of higher education at New York University, highlighted the appeal of U.S. universities to international students, emphasizing the perceived return on investment and prestige associated with American higher education institutions. Moja noted the high demand for STEM programs in countries like India, where pursuing engineering is often viewed as a pathway to long-term stability and success.

Overall, the diverse factors influencing international graduate student enrollment underscore the complex dynamics shaping global higher education trends.