The Institute of International Education (IIE) announced its latest ‘pulse’ survey to assess US higher education institutions’ response to COVID-19. The focus of the survey, fielded in July, is on universities’ response to summer classes, plans to bring students back in the fall, and the subsequent impact on international students’ decision-making. This latest survey in IIE’s snapshot series includes responses from 520 universities, representing nearly half of all international students hosted in the US (550,000).
The majority of universities indicated they offered virtual instruction only in Summer 2020, a markedly different approach but indicative of their ability to adapt quickly under the circumstances.
Many facets of their operations needed to change, with the majority of universities reporting on-campus events were canceled (76%), dorms/offices closed (63%), and domestic (58%) and international (86%) travel for staff canceled.
International student enrollment for Summer 2020 was reported by 302 institutions that indicated they had over 40,385 international students on campus in Summer 2020 and 7,297 international students enrolled abroad. These totals do not include students who have stayed in the US on their visas but were not on campus.
For students unable to come in person for the Summer 2020 term, the following graphic shows what percentage of universities offered online classes, deferment, or a refund.
The majority (87%) of universities plan to offer hybrid options for the fall. Not surprisingly, 90% indicated their plan for fall will be new and different from their previous semesters.
Many universities (41%) said there will be changes to their academic calendar as well. Over half plan to start early and end early. The report also dives into how universities plan to enforce specific safety measures on campus, with the most cited measure being mask-wearing at 94%.
What will happen to international students currently on campus and enrolled? The report cites that 91% of institutions said they anticipate the majority of their students will stay through Fall 2020.
When asked about the impact on international student application numbers and how that compares to previous years, just over half (52%) said they have seen at least a slight decline, and 18% reported a substantial decline in applications.
However, over a quarter said their application numbers have remained about the same, with over 20% saying they even saw some increase.
In terms of international students who intend to enroll for Fall 2020, universities are offering a variety of options with the most popular being deferment to Spring 2021 or online enrollment through distance education classes.
With this switch to virtual, universities realistically expect challenges specific to international students. An overall decrease in enrollment and a decline in engagement are expected given the different modalities. Access and time zone issues are also a concern and many universities may be forced to have international students attend recorded lectures.