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Uptick in international students deferring college in the US

Travelling to the US
Could travelling to the US be risky for international students? Source: Sean Rayford/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Interested in travelling to the US for school? Some US universities and colleges are seeing an uptick in international student deferral, reported Bloomberg. University personnel expect this number to increase amid challenges brought upon by the pandemic. 

University at Buffalo School of Management assistant dean and chief enrollment officer Erin O’Brien told the news agency that last year, 44% of those admitted to the graduate business school ended up deferring — 59% of international students chose this route. This year, with a week left before classes begin, only 6% of international students have deferred, but O’Brien expects that figure to increase.

A spokesperson for Pennsylvania State University, Lisa Powers, said the public university has heard from 185 students requesting to defer their visas to Spring 2022 or later, and the number could increase. They expect to have almost 9,000 international students learning in-person this fall.

“We have seen a bit of a scramble in the last two weeks of students who have discovered that they may not be able to arrive in time,” Powers was quoted saying. “We are attempting to help these individuals as much as we can, however, some things are beyond our control.”

Michigan State University said international students are deferring their studies for the semester. Spokesperson Dan Olsen said the school is expecting 492 first-year undergraduates from other countries, down from 780 in 2019 before the pandemic. 

travelling to the US

International students have had challenges travelling to the US due to visa processing delays, among other reasons. Source: Sean Rayford/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Could travelling to the US be risky for international students?

International students have faced numerous obstacles travelling to the US, from difficulty finding flights to delays in visa processing. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the Delta variant is currently the predominant strain of the virus in the country. This strain is highly transmissible, and data suggests it might cause more severe illness than previous variants in unvaccinated people, said CDC.

An increasing number of US universities are introducing vaccine mandates too. This, however, has put some international students without access to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health OrganiSation (WHO) -approved vaccines in a pickle. Students who are travelling to the US will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Global Alliance for International Student Advancement founding president Rich DeCapua told Bloomberg that when students defer, it may be a first step in considering options elsewhere. He added that US colleges face growing competition from Australia, Canada and some European countries, which offer an easier path to study there while their calibre has also “risen significantly.”  

International student enrollment in US colleges and universities have plunged in recent years. US universities saw an overall 72% decline in new international students in the US in 2020 compared to the previous year, said recent data.

Last year, international students in the US came from 226 countries and represented every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica, said the report. Asia is the most popular continent of origin, bolstered by the number of students coming from China and India. All six continents saw a decline in the number of students coming to the country.