2019 International Education Predictions and Outcomes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to revisit our 2019 predictions. Each year we come up with a 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!

Historic Decline in International Student Enrollment in the US

Our Prediction from January

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.

Evaluation of Prediction

There’s no hiding that we got this wrong.  We can’t say, the incoming class of international students shrunk for the third year in a row, and but for the increasing popularity of OPT, the overall numbers would be down.  That sounds too much like excuses! The truth is, according to the 2019 Open Doors Report, there were 1,095,299 international students in the US for the 2018/2019 school year, up 507 total students or .05% over the previous year.  The decrease in the size of the incoming class has slowed dramatically, so hopefully, we can begin to return to growing enrollments next year.

Efforts to Encourage Diversity in Study Abroad Will Ramp Up

Our Prediction from January

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.

Evaluation of Prediction

This one is a win. Along with the latest IIE Open Doors report reflecting that diversity remains on the incline within study abroad, we have seen a continued flurry of action this year around making it stay that way; CIEE’s 2019 annual conference was focused on “Opening Doors to Increase Diversity in Study Abroad”, and many schools like Lander University and Ashland University that pledged to Generation Study Abroad exceeded their set goals of sending an increased percentage of underrepresented students abroad. Even with hurdles like the new ETIAS travel screening expected to be operational in 2021, we hope to see the progress continue from here.

More Turmoil and Adaptation Within the For-Profit Sector

Our Prediction from January

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.

Evaluation of Prediction

Correct. Like years in the past 2019 also brought on tribulations and changes within the world of for-profits. There have been numerous for-profit schools this year going through changes, but perhaps the most notable is the closing of Argosy University amidst fraud charges.  The series of continuous changes has also brought continued attention from lawmakers and regulators- including many states like California, New York, Maryland stepping in to propose their own regulations. It’s certainly a sector we will continue to keep an eye on as it continues to alter.

Big Tech Will Make a Move to Disrupt the Healthcare Market 

Our Prediction from January

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.

Evaluation of Prediction

Wrong. 2019 was not the year that big technology companies moved in to disrupt the healthcare market. Examples of large tech companies moving into the healthcare space include: Google buying out Fitbit, Apple actively seeking involvement from both health researchers and hospitals, and Amazon launching its telemedicine service to its employees.  However, with all the hype surrounding big tech in healthcare, we have yet to see major innovations that would disrupt the healthcare industry.

Pathway Programs Take a Breath

Our Prediction from January

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.  

Evaluation of Prediction

Wrong. With the flexibility and economical impact of pathway programs, they have not yet slowed down. During the past year we have seen a continued increase in students wanting to pursue a pathway program, schools increasing their pathway program advertising efforts, and more support and resources in general available, like the Kaplan University Pathway Guide. We might have been a couple of years early on this prediction and look forward to keeping an eye on it.

Enrollment From China Declines

Our Prediction from January

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.

Evaluation of Prediction

We missed this one as well, as the continuing trend did not go as far as we predicted. Growth in enrollment from China has been slowing since the giant spikes began twelve years ago.  From 8.1% in 2015/2016 to 6.8%, to 3.6% last year, to 1.7% according to the latest 2018/2019 Open Doors Report, there’s been a steady decline in the growth rate in students from China.  However, there was still growth – whether that growth has continued into the current academic year we won’t know for sure for another year.

GDPR Enforcement Begins in Earnest

Our Prediction from January

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.

Evaluation of Prediction

Correct. GDPR enforcements certainly gathered pace in 2019, and we expect that to continue into 2020. As we outlined in our September blog post, a range of enforcements came from within the EU, most notably, Microsoft and British Airways being hit with over £300 Million in fines. It gets a little fuzzy for the companies located outside the EU, and have no office within the EU. There is very little guidance on who will be responsible for regulating those companies. However, it’s guaranteed that  GDPR is here to stay and we will certainly see more enforcements as the years roll on.

Decline in Reports of Sexual Assaults on College Campuses 

Our Prediction from January

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.

Evaluation of Prediction

Wrong. While sexual assault on college campuses has been a hot topic for schools around the world, we had originally thought that the number of reported sexual assaults would decline as the proposed rules to Title IX would relax a lot of the enforcement. Turns out we were wrong.
At the end of October, the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct was released by the Association of American Universities who surveyed 181,752 students at 33 colleges and universities. Their findings showed that rates of sexual assault slightly increased over the past four years, and the highest rates were among women and transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary (TGQN) students. With all the chatter about sexual assault, Title IX, and the #MeToo Movement, there is more awareness than ever before about how to report a sexual assault and how to access resources, contributing to more reports than in years past.

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One Response to 2019 International Education Predictions and Outcomes

  1. MSD says:

    nice information shared.

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