December 17, 2020

A Look Into The Open Doors Data: Quick Takes on Fast Facts 2020

Richard DeCapua, President and Founder of GAISA offers an in depth analysis of the Open Doors Report 2020

As is true of just about everything in 2020, International Education Week looked different this year. But even as gales of news about the spiking coronavirus crisis threatened to overwhelm the findings from the annual Open Doors Report, the question of how the education community will respond to the ongoing uncertainty amidst a disrupted transition to a new administration has conveyed even greater importance on understanding the state of international student affairs.

Unpacking the report

Broadly, the Fast Facts data reveals that international student enrollment is on a downward trend. There were 1.8 percent fewer international students in 2019/20 attending U.S. institutions as compared to the previous academic year. Indeed, for the second straight year, the Open Doors report found declines in the international student population at almost every academic level:

  • Undergraduate: 419,321, a decline of -2.9 percent
  • Graduate: 374,435, a decline of — 0.9 percent
  • Non-degree: 58,201, a decline of -6.6 percent

While many factors could have impacted the decline in global students crossing our borders, it’s worth observing that many of the most common countries of origin for international students — including four of the top five — have had strained relationships with the United States during the Trump administration. Travel bans and increased border scrutiny have impacted the cultural experience of current and aspiring international students alike — a fact that prompted concern among the education community, even before the rise of coronavirus.

The top five countries of origin:

  • China: 372,532, 34.6 percent of total
  • India: 193,124, 18.0 percent of total
  • South Korea: 193,124, 4.6 percent of total
  • Saudi Arabia: 30,957, 2.9 percent of total
  • Canada: 30,957, 2.9 percent of total

Still, there are encouraging figures to be gleaned from the Fast Facts. More than 1 million international students representing Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and South America made their way to the United States to study in 2019/20, bringing with them diverse cultures, viewpoints and experiences.

How GAISA fits in

The International Educational Exchange’s (IEE) Open Doors Report is the only long standing and comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars in the United States. It provides tremendous data and context related to the demographics of our international student population — we want our work to complement and extend those insights. GAISA is primarily concerned with researching international student success in higher education, better understanding the international student experience and elevating international student voices.

We aim to work with universities across the country and act as a champion and advocate for the international student experience. International students contribute tremendously to our campuses and it is a disservice to all of us when their voices are not recognized. We believe in the power of community and connection and we want to act as a force to bring together international students and their domestic peers to promote greater cultural and social integration and student advancement.

Without resources like the Open Doors Fast Facts data, that mission would be vastly more complicated. Fortunately, we have decades of information about where many international students choose to live and study within the United States, which creates the opportunity for us to observe patterns of success and meet more international students where they are.

Together, we can advance our understanding of what it means to be foreign on campus and elevate the voices of international students all around the United States. Let’s get started.


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