The Southern state is seeing enrolment in K-12 schools, university and vocational education institutes fall more than four times the national decline rate.
International student enrolment declined by 2.2 percent to 86,706 according to a new report by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Houston Public Media reported.
Shannon Bedo, Director of International Student Services at the Houston Baptist University traces this fall to prospective students’ fear over immigration and the rumours they hear about it.
“If they go home to visit their families, they are afraid their visas wouldn’t be renewed so they can come back and finish their studies,” Bedo said.
She added that despite this, there are many reasons that make Houston an attractive city for immigrants, such as affordability, diversity, job opportunities and medical centre.
Bedo, who is on the international recruitment collaborative Study Texas, said the university will start seeing the effects of the decline this fall. The majority of international students at Houston Baptist are from Nigeria and China.
At the University of Houston (UH), international applications increased by three percent compared to last year, a figure that is less than half of the seven to 10 percent growth over the previous three years, according to The Daily Cougar.
To counter this, the university is boosting efforts around customer service and international student recruitment, such as implementing different means of communication for students to contact them, like chat features and social media.
When South Korean Yoijin Oh was applying to UH, she sent several transcripts for the transfer but the university said they didn’t get it. Calls to the admissions office and emails were unanswered. UH said they are implementing a new support system to deal with such issues.
Problems around recruitment and immigration are just a few of the reasons behind the state’s enrolment numbers.
The new data by ICE is also notable as the number of Texas institutions with the certification to admit international students have increased, from 500 in March 2017 to 509 in March 2018. Yet, compared to the same month a year ago, there are nearly 2,000 fewer international students enrolled in the state’s schools and universities.
Despite the decline, Texas – together with California and New York – hosted the largest number of students from abroad, making up 35 percent of the entire student population. There were 328,782 F-1 and M-1 students in the Southern states last year.
The South also experienced growth in international student numbers last year, as did the Northeast which welcomed two percent more F-1 and M-1 students. Enrolment in the Midwest dropped between 1 and 2 percent, while the Western region saw the steepest drop at 4 percent.