2018 International Education Predictions and Outcomes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to revisit our 2018 predictions. Each year we come up with list of predictions related to the world of international education. Now that the year is almost over, let’s take another look at our predictions and see how we did!

1End of the Mandate Pushes Schools Away From ACA for International Students

Our Prediction from January:

Although Republican efforts over the summer to repeal the ACA (Obamacare) failed, that didn’t mean the landmark legislation was safe from attack. Instead, its been death by a thousand cuts – here’s a few of the efforts by the Trump Administration to undermine the ACA:

  • Steep cuts to Navigator groups and to Marketplace outreach efforts, to prevent education of people on the law and subsidies available to them;
  • Executive order aimed at providing more ACA-exempt plans;
  • Medicare/Medicaid Administrator giving an “unprecedented level of flexibility” to states requesting waivers from ACA rules;
  • Halting cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers;
  • Prohibiting U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employees from participating in Marketplace enrollment events;
  • Reducing the enrollment window;
  • Active video campaign by HHS to undermine the ACA;
  • and finally, in the tax bill just passed, eliminating the individual mandate that requires all US Citizens, Permanent Residents and Resident Aliens to have ACA-level coverage with essential health benefits.

Regardless of where you stand on the ACA, and most Americans wanted to keep and fix it, it was never very relevant to international students. It was geared towards lifetime coverage, not temporary visitors and most were exempt from the mandate anyway. With the end of the mandate, colleges and universities will accelerate the trend we’ve already seen – going away from ACA coverage for international students and embracing plans custom-built for international students.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Our own experience and anecdotal evidence confirm this trend, but without hard data we’ll take it as a half a win. In our prediction we highlighted how the ACA survived the repeal and replace votes in the Summer of 2017, but in a weakened state, especially due to the elimination of the individual mandate.  Although some colleges and universities are committed to an ACA plan because of state mandates or regional expectations, many schools need to reduce the cost of insurance to their students while ensuring they are adequately covered for their time in the US using a non-ACA plan custom-built for international students.  These custom-built plans can include some of the more popular provisions of the ACA, like preventative care and pre-existing condition coverage. Since the popularity of ACA cradle-to-grave style coverage has continued to drop, there are fewer insurance companies offering it.  Without the individual mandate, there are no longer any students that are required to have ACA coverage – how much this has contributed to the reduction in ACA plans is unknown, but the trend is clear.

1Open Doors Report Shows New High, Followed by Steep Drop-Off

Our Prediction from January:

For 45 years the number of international students in the US has grown every year, with the exception of the small declines seen from 2003 to 2006 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and resulting visa slowdowns. The Open Doors Report from November 2017 showed a 3.4% jump in total international students in the US, from 1,043,089 to 1,078,822, but it also showed new enrollments down about 7%, or 10,000 students, to 291,000. The question is, when will the decreasing number of new enrollments flatten out the overall growth in students?

Open Doors data is always a year behind, so the latest report reflects enrollments for the 2016/2017 school year – meaning most of those students made their decision to come to the US when the Trump Administration was still more reality TV than politically viable. Many signs are pointing to a bigger drop in enrollment for the 2017/2018 school year. Our prediction – although there will be a bigger drop in new enrollments, it won’t be enough to offset the giant new enrollment years we saw in 2013 to 2016. We’ll see one more all-time high in the November 2018 Open Doors Report, followed by a steep decline in the 2019 report as those giant new enrollment classes drop off.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Not surprisingly, we got this one right. The most recent Open Doors Report from IIE shows that the total number of international students in the US increased by 1.5%, while the new incoming class dropped for the second year in a row, by 6.6%.  One could quibble, of course, that a 6.6% decline is not a steep drop-off, and we’d accept that position.  But the Open Doors Report doesn’t show the full current picture, since its data is for the 2017-2018 academic year.  We’ve had another new class arrive since then, and another currently being recruited, and our own evidence gathered from recruiting fairs, google trends, the IIE Fall Enrollment snapshot, State Department visa issuance statistics and other reports and surveys are that we’re in for at least another two down years.

1Continued Turmoil and Adaptation Within The For-Profit Sector

Our Prediction from January:

2016 and 2017 were brutal years for the for-profit education sector. We saw the end of ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, the demise of the leading accreditation body ( ACICS), strict regulations put into place, hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits and fines, and a rapid decline in enrollment numbers and revenue.

Hello, 2018. Things have to get better, right? Things would appear so as we now have a for-profit friendly administration that has worked to undo regulations from the previous administration, and Wall Street is taking kindly to those that remain publicly traded. In fact, Adtalem Global Education (formerly Devry Education Group) stock is just a couple bucks away from a five year high.

However, it’s not a clear path to growth in the for-profit sector – rather we think there will be continued turmoil and adaptation as for-profits and not-for-profits try to figure out their futures. Adtalem announced they are unloading Devry and Keller School of Management to get them out of their portfolio and over to Cogswell Education (if the deal goes through). Their focus will then turn to their nursing and trade schools, more specifically, their medical schools in the Caribbean and growing Adtalem Education in Brazil (which currently boasts over 110k students with further growth in sight). Apollo Education stopped trading on Nasdaq on February 1st last year, giving stockholders $10 a share as they went to a private equity firm for $1.1 billion. However, the most shocking adaptation we’ve seen so far was the announcement that Purdue University was purchasing Kaplan University for $1.00 (plus a management deal), transforming them from a for-profit institution to a public university. This move was essentially a way for Purdue to reach non-traditional online students without having to develop their own online programs, while helping Kaplan with their for-profit woes.

Our prediction is that this trend will continue. We will see more partnerships between for-profits and public universities along with others continuing to move to a non-profit structure. More schools will also explore investing outside of the US due to less regulated and more lucrative markets like Brazil. Heck, we might even see another giant fall.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

This one is a solid yes, as 2018 was quite a tumultuous year in the for-profit sector. Just last week we received the news that Education Corporation of America, which owns Brightwood College and Virginia College, is closing the doors of 70 campuses across the US. So, as predicted, a giant has fallen in 2018. Additionally, we watched 18 for-profit schools close their doors for good and witnessed 7 mergers, including Bridgeport merging University of the Rockies with Ashford and moving them to a non-profit structure. Grand Canyon was also approved for non-profit status and many believe this will become the model for other for-profits to follow. In addition, the for-profit savior, Betsy Devos, bailed out the once leading accreditor ACICS after losing two-thirds of its members since 2016. If you recall, ACICS came under intense scrutiny since they were the accreditor for ITT Tech and many other shuttered for-profit universities.

Large for-profits like Adtalem Global (formerly Devry) continued to invest in overseas universities. Adtalem is moving their Ross University School of Medicine campus to Barbados and investing $10.5 million in a new research and pathology building for their Veterinary Medicine campus in St. Kitts. Laureate has sold off a handful of their overseas schools, but has refocused their efforts in Spain, Portugal, South and Central America. According to Laureate CEO, Eilif Serck-Hanssen, expanding in Brazil has been a top priority this past year.

1Canada and Australia Continue to Erode the US International Student Market Share

Our Prediction from January:

Canada and Australia have laid the groundwork to take advantage of the projected shrinking international student population in the US. According to the Times Higher Education, in the 2016/2017 academic year Canada has seen an 11% increase in the number of international students (192,000 total) and have a goal of 450,000 international students by 2022. Australia has over 480,000 students enrolled in the spring 2017 semester- a 15% increase over the previous year. On the other hand, the US only saw a 3% growth in the 2016/2017 year according to the Open Doors Report. And as discussed above, US schools saw a 7% decline in new international student enrollments in 2016/2017.

We all know the reasons… A new, not so immigrant friendly administration, gun violence across the country, and the cost of a US education, to name a few (read more in our blog – Canada’s Growing International Student boom). Canada and Australia are also investing in recruiting international students, offering them a friendly, less expensive place to get a high-quality education and perhaps even stay in the country after graduation.

We do not see much along these lines changing in 2018 which is why we are predicting that the US will continue to lose market share to Canada and Australia.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We admit it, this prediction was a gimmie. We have all seen the recent Open Doors data that paints the picture of the 2017-2018 school year and have felt the declines in 2018-2019 actual enrollment numbers. Challenges like the “Trump effect,” and US gun violence dominating the news have encouraged students to explore other options beyond studying in the US. Sitting at 490,000 international students our neighbors to the North have surpassed their 2022 goal of 450,000 international students; in Australia, they are seeing similar results as they reached 652,000+ international students in September- an 11% increase over the previous year.

According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, 95% of international students recommend Canada as a study destination and 51% plan on applying for permanent residency! In addition, the top sending countries to both Canada and Australia are China and India, two countries that make up 50% of the international students in the US.

1J-1 Visa Programs will Continue to Weather the Storm

Our Prediction from January:

While there were no major changes to the J-1 visa program last year, it certainly was a bumpy ride. In the spring of 2017 a draft executive order was leaked to the press that showed the administration’s desire to eliminate or severely restrict J-1 programs that had a work component, including work and travel, au pairs and interns/trainees. What the administration may have underestimated was the industry’s resilience and bipartisan support. With a big push the #savej1 campaign attracted widespread support from both sides of the political spectrum, along with business from all over the US – you can visit the #savej1 website that champions and builds support for the J-1 programs.

As far as we can see there are still many challenges ahead, and smooth sailing is not in the forecast for the J-1 visa program. However, they will weather the storm and continue forward stronger and more resilient than ever.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We’re giving ourselves a win on this one. The J1 visa programs have continued to weather the storm, but whereas 2017 could be defined as a hurricane, 2018 was certainly a little calmer. After the BAHA executive order in 2017, and all the confusion about what impact this would have on the J1 programs, there were no large scares of that scale in 2018. Strong bi-partisan support for the J1 program has helped, as has vocal support from the business community that suffers when there’s a lack of seasonal workers typically supplied through these programs. Turmoil at the State Department continued with the firing of Rex Tillerson in March, but the appointment of Marie Royce s the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, a strong believer in exchange programs, has provided hope that her support for the programs will help them thrive and grown into the future.

1International US High School Enrollments will Continue to Thrive

Our Prediction from January:

International students coming to study at US high schools more than tripled between 2004 and 2016 to 82,000, as reported by IIE in the summer of 2017, and we only expect this trend to continue in 2018. Nearly half of all these students (48%) come from China alone, and high schools are starting to become even more welcoming to international students with 500 more schools opening their doors in the last three years. However, there will be challenges ahead, with increased competition not only in the domestic market but also from countries like Ireland, the UK and the previously mentioned Canada and Australia. Schools will struggle to attract the same amount of growth that has been seen in the past while Australia in particular is growing its market share, with the fastest growth rate over the last 3 years of 34%, compared to the USA’s 12%.

We expect the US to hold firm at the number 1 spot in 2018 and continue to grow its market share, but with stronger growth from other countries, the US may struggle to hold onto the top spot in years to come.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We’ll have to accept a half-win on this one, since we don’t have hard data. A report released in August 2017 from the Institute of International Education (IIE) found a “strong increase” in F-1 visa holders enrolling in US high schools. This steady increase started in 2014 and by 2016 the number of international secondary students in the US had tripled.  Although we can’t get our hands on any comprehensive data on current numbers of international high school students in the US, based on everything we can glean we think it’s still growing.   We are seeing increased attendance at industry events, as more K-12 schools are opting to recruit international students at the high school level. Also, as reported by the PIE News, at a recent EducationUSA forum event, many EducationUSA advisers have reported increases in the number of inquiries they receive from students looking to study in the United States at the secondary level. Hopefully 2019 will bring about some solid data to track this growing trend.

1Universities Increase Focus on Smartphone Addiction and its Impact on the Mental Health of Students

Our Prediction from January:

In recent years more studies have surfaced from around the globe exploring the impact that technology has on the mental health of college students. For example, a 2017 survey by San Diego State University professor of psychology and author Jean Twenge had findings discussed in an article in The Atlantic that iGen (those born between 1995 and 2012) “teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.” Between social media, text messaging and internet browsing, smartphones in general get a lot of use on college campuses- and it’s beginning to turn a few heads.

In response to this issue boiling to the surface and the continued increase of smartphone use, we predict that this year many colleges and universities will buckle down and make addressing smartphone addiction a priority. The topic of mental health on campus in general seems ubiquitous these days, as more institutions incorporate mental health into orientation through resources like the International Student Insurance Mental Health Awareness video, and helplines like RAINN’s live chat and phone service. However, in 2018 we will see an added layer in the messaging as schools also raise awareness of phone use and how it could potentially impact the mental health of students.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

After our International Student Insurance (ISI) team presented on mental health awareness at ten of the eleven NAFSA regionals, it was clear that the focus on mental health of international students has grown during the past year. Initiatives to reduce stigma around mental health have increased on US college campuses; not only are students becoming more aware of the topic,  but many advisors are making mental health awareness a priority. In fact, hundreds of schools around the US have requested our ISI mental health training program to use on their own campus.

When narrowing the focus to mental health and smartphone addiction,  there has certainly been an uptick in the number of studies and conversations around this matter. For example, one study in Turkey on Smartphone Addiction Level Among a Group of University Students found that 48.7% were at a high-risk level of smartphone addiction. In a separate article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, research within the piece revealed that higher levels of smartphone use was associated with higher levels of stress and depression. Although various studies show that smartphone addiction is an issue, and some schools have started efforts to limit cell-phone use, a larger initiative to turn this information into a solution is not yet in place, so we get a half-right on this prediction.

1Touchless Interfaces Make a Big Leap Forward

Our Prediction from January:

“Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights.” By now we’ve all gotten used to the idea of asking Siri, Alexa, Google and Cortana for help recalling an obscure fact, sending a text message to a friend or playing our favorite song list. For 2018 and the coming years, the big leap for systems like Siri and Alexa will be understanding the context of a conversation and being able to thread conversations together to provide more insight automatically. What does this mean you can look forward to in the upcoming year? Expect to see these AI (Artificial Intelligence) front-ends start acting like real personal assistants, offering reminders about upcoming events or alerting you to things that you didn’t specifically schedule or configure.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Touchless Interfaces have made a major leap forward. In a single year, it has evolved from a neat feature on a smartphone into a technology that has integrated seamlessly with our daily lives. Google has invested heavily in touchless interface and is making great strides, as have Amazon and many others. The impact goes beyond convenience. For example, drivers can select a song via voice command, removing the need for a driver to take their eyes off the road, and in turn contributing to making the roads a safer place. Needless to say, touchless interfaces are here to stay and we nailed this prediction.

1More Schools Start to Use Mobile Messaging Apps

Our Prediction from January:

It’s no secret that mobile messaging apps are popular and only continue to grow. When it comes to apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, KakaoTalk, and LINE, billions of people are using them, including prospective international students. WeChat currently accounts for almost 30% of Chinese daily mobile-use time, according to QuestMobile, and while emails average 90 minutes before they’re read, the average text message is read within 90 seconds, according to the wireless association CTIA.

With mobile messaging apps continuing to gain user approval and having the ability to quickly reach students around the world, we predict that more colleges and universities will also give their stamp of approval when it comes to integrating them into their recruitment strategy. Not only do we think institutions will embrace the world of mobile messaging apps to put themselves where students are, but we’re also predicting that WeChat will lead the way as the top mobile messaging app that schools turn to in 2018.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We’re so close on this one. The chatter around using mobile messaging within recruitment is there, and some schools are already using it to keep in touch with current students; but when it comes to fully integrating messaging into recruitment and communication strategies there are still a few things to be figured out. In fact, Emma Gilmartin, Head of Social Media at University of Glasgow and part of the university’s award-winning communications office, recently stated in an interview with InsideHigherEd that even they haven’t quite harnessed WhatsApp messenger as a tool to communicate with students. We talked specifically about how to implement WhatsApp into a recruiting strategy in a recent blog post, but its not yet fully arrived as a strategy for most schools.

Additionally, we proposed that more schools would embrace Wechat as a means to recruit students in China. While institutional interest is certainly there,  the trend hasn’t exactly caught on like we anticipated. Perhaps due to limitation instead of desire? Organizations outside of China find it difficult (if not impossible) to establish and maintain an account without the help of a representative in China, which can pose a big hurdle. Although some universities use partnerships that would allow a way around this limitation, it appears others have simply turned their focus in a different direction for now.

1Artificial Intelligence Will Be Huge

Our Prediction from January:

For years popular fiction has portrayed AI (Artificial Intelligence) as heartless killing machines. Think Blade Runner, The Matrix, The Terminator and Joshua from War Games. The future may hold a terrifying world of killer robots bent on our destruction, but for now- we’re safe. The current version of AI is happily checking your credit score for automated loan approvals, it’s building your personalized social media feed and helping your insurance company become more accurate in their underwriting. AI implementation will continue to grow at a fast pace and we’re going to see much of the growth in online customer service, autonomous vehicles and deep neural networks that can process medical research data more thoroughly than any human could. Although it might be a few years before popular AI movie scenarios become a reality, in 2018 we will definitely see AI as a major focal point in everyday life.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

In 2018 we saw Google made profound strides in Artificial Intelligence technology; most notably, the jaw-dropping conversation between Google’s Assistant and a human over the scheduling of a hair appointment during the 2018 Google I/O festival. Although Google’s Assistant was a crowd-pleaser, throughout the year Artificial Intelligence did not make any other large headlines. 2018 wasn’t Artificial Intelligence’s big year but that year isn’t far off.




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