Enrollment of graduate students across the US will go down in the next academic year. Universities are now bracing for tough economic times post coronavirus pandemic.
Long before coronavirus started spreading across the US, the number of graduate students admitted to US universities was already declining. The enrollment of international students was also on a steep decline, reducing more than 10 percent from the academic year 2015/2016.
This all started with new immigration rules after the 2016 presidential elections that saw Donald Trump elected as the president. The travel restrictions combined with other factors such as competition from countries such as Canada, the UK and Australia for international students started the decline of admissions of graduate students in the US.
Impact of graduate students on universities
Graduate students have always remained a bright spot for universities looking to balance their books. Even as the undergraduate enrollment declined, streaming of new graduate students from around the world meant money was flowing into the universities. They were able to meet their financial obligations and continue running.
However, the spread of coronavirus has been a game-changer, with universities now anticipating a low number of admissions in the universities. The next academic year will see a decline in the number of graduate students admitted to the universities. The situation will also be compounded by a sharp decline in the number of international graduate students admitted.
Currently, international graduate students make up around 13 percent of the total graduate population in the US. Richard Garrett, chief research officer at the consulting firm Eduventures argued a reduction of these students would be catastrophic to universities who rely on them to balance the books.
He described the situation where if you were to take them out of the system, some graduate courses would lose more than half of their students.
The handling of the coronavirus will also have an impact on the number of graduates that enroll in the universities. This will be especially true for international students who will fear an infection of the virus.
The visa process has also been complicated for these students, with at least four Republican senators urging the government to consider not extending graduates’ stay in the US, which would allow them to work after graduation. The argument is that they will take jobs that would otherwise go to US citizens.
A combination of a pandemic, harsh immigration rules, the financial strain caused by economic shutdown around the world and Visa rules highlights tough realities universities are bracing for once universities reopen.
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