Georgia’s universities continued to attract more international students over the past year, posting solid gains despite a flat growth rate nationally.
The state hosted 23,623 students from around the world in 2018-19, a 3.7 percent growth rate that was considerably slower than last year’s nearly 6 percent year-over-year growth.
But Georgia looked stellar compared to an anemic 0.05 percent increase in student attraction across the U.S.
American universities did post another record by wooing 1,095,299 international students in the most recent year, but that was a total gain of just 507 across the entire country, according to the Institute for International Education’s annual Open Doors survey released Nov. 18. (Georgia alone saw an increase of 834 foreign students.)
The institute had warned in 2018 of a potential decline in student arrivals, with visa denials on the rise and perceptions gaining traction that the U.S. is becoming less hospitable to foreigners.
The statistics lend some credence to that, as undergraduate students gaining admission to the U.S. institutions for the first time fell by 0.9 percent, flattening out an even more precipitous drop from last year. That might’ve had to do with tensions with China, which furnishes about a third of U.S. international students and still posted 1.7 percent growth this year to 369,548 enrollees.
The Trump administration has grown increasingly skeptical of Chinese influence on American research institutions and has pressured them to probe academics’ ties to the Chinese government or companies. As a result, many China-funded Confucius Institutes have shut down, while schools have ended research partnerships with Chinese firms like the embattled tech giant Huawei.
But overall, student numbers keep going up across the board, partly because hundreds of thousands of graduates remain in the U.S. on student visas even when they start working.
Students with degrees in STEM fields can now stay for three years of on-the-job training after graduation instead of the standard two for those in other fields. This extended period of Optional Practical Training dovetails bodes well for the foreign student population, a majority of whom are covering science, technology, engineering or math, according to Open Doors. The number of foreign students here on OPT status jumped 9.6 percent last year to 223,085. Every other category — undergraduate, graduate and non-degree — saw declines.
Georgia is bucking any stark negative trends. Its top five host institutions kept the same order and posted positive growth: Georgia Tech, the perennial leader, was up more than 10 percent to 6,656. Savannah College of Art and Design, which drove Georgia’s growth in 2018 with an outlier year of more than 30 percent growth, saw a more modest but still substantial increase of 10.2 percent to 3,879 students.
Rounding out the top five were Emory University (up 0.7 percent to 3,126), Georgia State University (up 7.2 percent to 2,869) and the University of Georgia (up 7.1 percent to 2,427).
Spending by foreign students in Georgia on tuition and other expenses — a major services export for the state — also hit a new record at $850.6 million for the year, a 5.1 percent increase.
The top five student sending nations to Georgia were China (31.5 percent of the total), India (18.2 percent), South Korea (8.7 percent), Nigeria (2.3 percent) and Vietnam (2 percent). Saudi Arabia, which last year ranked No. 4, fell out of the top five.
The state moved up three slots to No. 12 among U.S. states and territories for hosting foreign students. No Georgia institutions cracked the top 25 for total numbers of students.
More International Education Week coverage to come.
Learn more and see the data at www.iie.org/opendoors.
See Georgia’s fact sheet below:Georgia (1)