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The number of new, first-time enrollments by international students at U.S. institutions increased by 68 percent for Fall 2021, a dramatic turnaround from the 46 percent decline reported for last year, according to the 2021 Open Doors Report on enrollment trends. Open Doors is an annual survey funded by the U.S. Department of State and published by the Institute of International Education.

For the 2020-21 academic year, for the first time in five years, the number of international students in the U.S. dropped below one million due to COVID-related travel restrictions and closures, with a reported total of 914,095 international students enrolled.

The total number of international students enrolled in 2020–21 fell by 13 percent at doctoral universities, 23 percent at master’s colleges and universities, 14 percent at baccalaureate colleges, and 24 percent at associate degree-granting colleges.

The snapshot survey data from this fall shows an overall total number of international students enrolled in the U.S. increased by 4% since last year. While 70 percent of responding institutions reported increases in international enrollment, 10 percent reported no change from last year, and 20 percent reported declines.

New international enrollments had been declining in the four years leading up to the pandemic, which observers attributed to an unwelcoming political climate and shifting policies on immigration.

The latest data also reflects a return to in-person learning: 99 percent of the institutions responding to the survey said they’re offering classes in person or in a hybrid format. At least 65 percent of the international students enrolled at colleges that responded to the snapshot survey this fall are present here in the U.S.

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Mary Bachinger

Director, Tax Policy

202.861.2581


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