The US State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for academic programs – Caroline Casagrande – says the US is aiming to increase international student numbers by making itself a more welcoming and attractive international study destination.

The US is dealing with a multi-year decline in international student enrolments at its universities.  International student numbers decreased 3.3 per cent in 2016-17 and 6.6 per cent in 2017-18. Many put the drop down to the ‘Trump effect’, in particular the tightening of visa restrictions and harsh political rhetoric regarding China.

Ms Casagrande instead puts the decline down to high tuition costs and poor promotion of the available study opportunities.

We know we need to get more competitive with price and, quite frankly, we know we need to redouble our efforts in terms of not only making sure our [overseas advice centres] are speaking to the right people but that our message is right: The United States welcomes international students, the United States has a university that’s a good fit at every price point.

She also explained that the US is focused on ensuring that international students are supported to integrate fully into their universities and local communities.

We want to make sure our colleges and universities are having programs to make sure that students don’t come, silo and only hang out with their fellow countrymen. We don’t think that’s an international experience. We don’t see that as a benefit to the American educational system.

Despite the drop in international student numbers over recent years, the US remains the most popular international study market.  The UK is second, and Australia is a close third. Australia has seen strong growth over recent years.

Ms Casagrande said the US is impressed with the growth of international student numbers in Australia and sees it as a ‘soft power’ benefit for all democratic countries:

Your education becomes part of your DNA. You learn those values as part of your education and if you can have the next generation of world leaders educated in Australia, educated in the UK, educated in allied countries that treat democracy and the rule of law the same, that’s a huge benefit to the world.

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