Top 8 International Education Predictions for 2019

1 Historic Decline in International Student Enrollment in the US

Since the 1948/1949 school year, when IIE began reporting on the number of international students in the US, there have been four years when the number of international students in the US has actually declined.  The first was in 1971/1972, when total enrollment dropped from 144,000 to 140,000. The other three years with declines were the 3 academic years after 9/11, which saw very modest declines of -2.4%, -1.3%, and -.05%, while the student visa process was overhauled.  With those exceptions, it’s been a 70 year history of steady growth. So when we say a “historic decline” we don’t mean a huge decline – simply that it’s a reversal of a 70-year trend. With smaller incoming classes the last two years, and likely larger drops over the next two years, we expect the 2018/2019 Open Doors Report from IIE to show a lower overall total.

1Efforts to Encourage Diversity in Study Abroad Will Ramp Up

We predict more initiatives encouraging underrepresented populations to study abroad in 2019, especially by colleges and universities directly. Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more focus on diversity through grants like the Capacity Building Grant for US Undergraduate Abroad, and IIE’s Generation Study Abroad Initiative. In fact, the IIE initiative includes more than 800 commitment partners aiming to not only double study abroad students but increase diversity before the end of the decade. Schools like NC State University are accepting this challenge and rolling out efforts like creating new scholarships for underrepresented students and hosting pre-departure orientation sessions geared towards minorities, LGBTQI+ students and other underrepresented students. And although during the past few years the IIE Open Doors report has shown a steady increase in ethnic diversity when it comes to students studying abroad (it now sits at nearly 30%), there is still room for growth.

Over the course of the next 12 months we will see increased strategy, grants and support put in place to increase diverse viewpoints in study abroad programs.

1More Turmoil and Adaptation Within the For-Profit Sector

The for-profit industry will continue to evolve and change through more mergers and transitions from for-profit to non-profit and at a quicker pace.  Last week we even saw National American University delisted from NASDAQ. Going into 2019, it is now or never for the schools to make the change. The sector could see more scrutiny with a new Congress and much uncertainty of who will have the helm in 2020.  These schools need to take advantage of Devos policies and lax oversight now or end up in deeper trouble down the road.

1Big Tech Will Make a Move to Disrupt the Healthcare Market 

The health insurance industry in the US is a behemoth, and insurance companies, in general, are slow to innovate with technology and efficiency improvements. We’ve seen this with our own business, where our own company with a committed tech team of five can often offer better interfaces and tech solutions than some of the massive players in the industry. With healthcare costs in the United States steadily rising, way faster than any other inflation, and a greater number of Americans becoming dissatisfied with their medical care, Amazon has announced its ambition to disrupt the healthcare market. The technology company that focuses on e-commerce and cloud computing is partnering with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create a new healthcare model that could be less like the traditional healthcare infrastructure and more like Amazon’s direct-to-consumer model.

We predict in 2019 a greater number of technology companies will move into the healthcare space. Expect to see Google, Apple, and possibly even Facebook following Amazon’s lead and pivot into a growing $3.5 trillion industry.

1Pathway Programs Take a Breath

Pathway programs are becoming increasingly popular across the globe, but especially in the US.  These public-private partnerships are a way for colleges and universities to increase their international student numbers and open up their recruiting pool to students that might not meet all of their academic and English language standards.  For the students, they get a year of extra attention on their English language skills and support acclimating to studying in the US all while earning first year credits.

However, pathway providers are feeling the challenges of the downtick of international students coming to the US.  Pathway programs are still relatively young in the international education industry. Some have been around long enough to show that the model can work.  However, even some of those pioneers are seeing lower numbers than they did four years ago. Others are breaking into the industry and trying to prove themselves for the first time.  

2019 will be a year of proving out the model in a relatively challenging time.  We think that there will be fewer new schools signing up with pathway providers, as they take a wait and see approach.  We think the current providers will double down to ensure the success of their current partnerships, increasing their creativity and initiative in finding new ways to fill seats college and university classrooms.  

1Enrollment From China Declines

Over the past 12 years, the United States has benefitted from massive growth in the number of Chinese students studying in the US.  According to the Open Doors Report, In the 2005/2006 school year, there were 62,582 Chinese students in the US, and for the next 12 years enrollment exploded, growing over 20% for five of those years and reaching 363,341 in the 2017/2018 year. Although growth has been slowing, we predict that next year’s Open Doors Report will show the first actual decline in the number of students from China enrolled in US colleges and universities.

The slowing Chinese economy, the trade war, the political rhetoric, the growth of China’s own higher education system – all of these factors combine with our own anecdotal experience to support our prediction.  In discussions at conferences around the world, again and again we’ve heard how Chinese students are preferring other destinations over the US.

1GDPR Enforcement Begins in Earnest

If there was one thing 2018 will be remembered for, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will almost certainly come to the forefront of many people’s minds. The GDPR update in 2018 saw the law expanded in many ways – but none more far-reaching than the geographic coverage. The law now purports to cover the treatment of personal data of any EU citizen, regardless of where that company holding the data resides.

The run-up to the May 25th 2018 deadline saw companies from all corners of the world scrambling to make sure their websites and data policies were all updated and compliant. Since this mad scramble, there has been a calm period, but there has been a hint of things to come with GDPR as we are starting to see the first few enforcements taking place. In September 2018, the Austrian Supervisory Authority issued a fine of €4,800 under GDPR and following that in October of 2018, the UK and Irish Supervisory Authorities served their first enforcement notices. We expect that these enforcement notices will become more common and start to scale up into 2019, and we will watch with interest for the first enforcement action outside of the EU.

1Decline in Reports of Sexual Assaults on College Campuses 

Betsy DeVos has proposed major changes to the existing Title IX guidance that will change the way sexual assault cases are handled on college campuses. While the final changes are still undergoing scrutiny, we predict that in the coming months the new changes will make it more difficult for victims to report and pursue cases of sexual assault, and thus the number of cases reported overall will decrease.

Some of the major changes include narrowing the definition of what “sexual assault” is, requiring schools to investigate incidents that occur on campus and not off campus (previous guidance had required schools to investigate incidents that occurred off campus by enrolled students), that there is a higher burden of proof to accuse someone of sexual assault from “preponderance of evidence” standard to a “clear and convincing evidence” standard, and that advisors would be able to cross-examine accusers in hearings over sexual assault complaints.


About Phu Nguyen

Phu is an alumnus to the University of South Florida in Tampa, and Florida International University in Miami, with Bachelors of the Arts in both Communications and English Education. A freelance writer for over a decade, her portfolio includes working with Nokia, the Georgia Aquarium, and articles in major online publications such as The Huffington Post. Phu joined Envisage as the Content and Digital Marketing Specialist in October of 2018.
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