State Department-Funded Study Shows Sharp Drop in International Students

By David North on November 15, 2021

There were fewer real international students during last year’s academic season (2020-2021) than in the prior season, a drop of 16.6 percent, according to a government-funded study released earlier today.

The number of new international students fell a dramatic 45.6 percent.

The drop is explained in large part by the presence of Covid-19, and to a lesser extent by the reaction of potential foreign students to the Trump administration.

This data is from the annual report of the Institute of International Education (IIE), a census conducted with State Department funding that always hides the negative financial consequences of recent foreign alumni on the American labor force, and always exaggerates the economic boost (if any) that comes from the presence of foreign students in the economy. I have not read this year’s long document in full, but in years gone by the fact that U.S. employers are given an 8.25 percent discount for hiring aliens who have recently graduated from American institutions, rather than American ones from the same institutions, has rarely been mentioned.

As in prior years, the report called, significantly, “Open Doors”, manages to overstate the number of real foreign students by adding all the recent alien graduates who are working in these federally subsidized jobs via the Optional Practical Training program (which has the 8.25 percent discount) to the number of genuine foreign students. Here are the numbers for actual foreign students, and for OPT workers, for the three most recent academic years, with the older numbers coming from earlier issues of the publication:

School Year Actual
OPT Alumni Totals
2018-2019 872,214 223,085 1,095,299
2019-2020 851,957 223,539 1,075,496
2020-2021 710,210 203,885 914,035

So the number of actual foreign students fell by 16.6 percent from the prior year while the number of subsidized OPT alumni workers decreased by only 8.8 percent.

Again this year, we are told that the presence of foreign students adds $39 billion to the American economy. This estimate is always picked up without comment by the media. Its source is interesting: It is the cumulative total of estimates made by the foreign student advisers of the colleges and universities covered by “Open Doors”, not by the financial officers of these institutions.

These estimates never reflect the true nature of academic funding — no university or college, except a handful of for-profit ones, breaks even on the tuition paid by students, even though foreign students tend to pay higher rates. They depend on either governmental funds or endowments (or both) to operate. These often enormous contributions to all students are routinely ignored by these reports.

Similarly, IIE never calculates the federal subsidies paid to employers of recent alien college graduates (the OPT workers). That federal subsidy does not come from the U.S. Treasury, it comes from the fact that employers of OPT aliens do not have to pay the payroll taxes that other employers pay; these taxes support our Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance trust funds. So the subsidies for the alien-preferring employers are unwittingly being paid by our seniors, our sick and disabled, and our unemployed — a factor, needless to say, not mentioned in “Open Borders”.

An employer who hires an American who recently received a college degree gets no subsidy.

As usual, the largest delegation of foreign students comes from China (34.7 percent of the real students plus the OPT workers) and the second-largest comes from India (18.3 percent). Between the two, the Chinese are more likely to return home than the Indians and the latter are more likely than the former to stay in the United States as OPT workers, as we have noted in the past.

For more on Open Borders as a data source in earlier years see here.