Did you come across recent news headlines about Trump Slump effect, resulting in 40% drop in number of international applicants to the US?

Here ares some of such headlines, led by the New York Times in the US and followed by Times of India, Hindustan Times and India Today at home.

Amid ‘Trump Effect’ Fear, 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applicants
The New York Times

No more US university dreams? Applications from Indian students see drop
Hindustan Times

US universities register drop in Indian student applications
Times of India

Applications of Indian students drop sharply at US universities: Is Trump administration at fault?
India Today

Above news were based on a survey of more than 250 American colleges and universities conducted jointly by American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the Institute of International Education, Association of International Educators, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and its focus subgroup International Association for College Admission Counseling (ACAC).

Should I continue your plan to study – pursuing your Bachelor’s or Master’s – in the US? As the trusted overseas student counselors, we are being asked this question several times everyday.

To answer you all confidently, we decided to read the study to demystify Trump Slump and dig dipper into the media hype.

A few quick points on this study:

#1 Perception vs Numbers

The survey cited by the Times clearly states it is gauging perceptions, not doing a “deep-dive into applicant numbers.”

“Our survey was intended specifically to gain some data on a trend that we were hearing from our member institutions – that in some areas, there were significant dips in application numbers, and that amongst the applicants, there were significant concerns voiced about whether study in the U.S. was desirable,” AACRAO Deputy Director Melanie Gottlieb told the Washington Examiner.

In other words, this is a tentative sketch, light on data. They even used the word “snapshot” twice in the same paragraph.”

#2 Survey sample size pretty small

The sample size is also pretty small, “[m]ore than 250 U.S. institutions”.  That’s around 5% of America’s higher ed sector.

We can’t tell how many students are covered by those institutions.

#3 39% increase in number of applicants

The survey also showed that there have been increases in the number of foreign applications submitted to many U.S. colleges and universities.

Of the 250 colleges and universities polled, 35 percent reported increases, compared to the 39 percent who reported decreases. A little more than a quarter (26 percent) said they saw no change at all.

That’s really all over the place.  A little more than one third of colleges and universities saw a decrease, while nearly the same number saw an increase.  Then one quarter saw no change.

#4 40% drop – not based on fact

“When you place the 39 percent reporting a decrease alongside the 26 percent reporting no significant change within the context of 7 percent overall growth per year over the last 7-8 years and an overall 40% increase over the last decade, this is news,” Gottlieb told the Examiner.

“The trend has been a solid increase to now more than 1 million international students studying in the US annually. Even flat numbers would be a change and will likely have an overall impact given that international students contribute approximately $36 billion to the U.S. economy,” she added.

This is still a significantly different portrait from the one the New York Times painted for its readers.

It’s one thing to report perception, and another thing to report fact-based data. When the two are blurred, as they are in the Times’ story, readers are left with an unclear picture.

#5 Misleading and false impression

There have been declines in applications in certain areas, according to AACRAO. There have also been increases in certain areas.

Some students say they feel unwelcome, and some school administrators say they are worried about the Trump administration.
These are things that can be reported neatly and accurately, which is not quite what the Times did.

There have been declines in applications in certain areas, according to AACRAO. There have also been increases in certain areas. Some students say they feel unwelcome, and some school administrators say they are worried about the Trump administration.
These are things that can be reported neatly and accurately, which is not quite what the Times did.

Consider this line: “One student, who is Muslim, said his father was worried that America had an anti-Muslim attitude.”

Also, consider this line: “‘Our deans describe it as a chilling effect,’ said Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools.”

Between these quotes and the article’s headline, there is little doubt left in the readers’ mind as to who should be blamed for the falling number of applications.

To cherry-pick data, and to pass it off as part of a larger trend linked to the White House, gives readers a very misleading and false impression about what is actually happening.

#6 De-monetization

The movement of students from one country to another is sensitive to fluctuations tied to political and economic forces.

At Admission Table, we know of few students who changed their plans to study overseas including the US, because of recent de-monetization in India.

#7 So what’s next?

So where does this leave us in April 2017?

Without better data, it’s still early days in figuring out immediate impact on student applications and yield.  But the attitudes this small study reveals suggests a some downturn to come.

#8 And, what should I do?

For students who want to know whether they should go ahead with their original plan to study in the US, we say, “Go for it!”

While eventual immigration to the US may have been on your agenda, and this may not seem as likely as before, there are other reasons why studying in the US is a great idea. World-class learning, state-of-the-art facilities, avant-garde research and global exposure are just a few really good reasons you should consider the US as an option to study further.

The education you receive in the US will help you build your long-term career!

 

References:
Survey by AACRO
Washington Examiner