Coronavirus travel ban had low impact on Chinese students in US, IIE survey shows

IIE’s survey was conducted to show the effects that travel restrictions related to the outbreak are having on international student mobility, US study abroad programs and international student recruitment for the fall 2020 semester.

“According to the institutions the vast majority of enrolled students from China were already on their campuses”

The survey revealed that 87 respondent institutions (37%) had international students from China enrolled at their institutions who were affected by travel restrictions related to Covid‐19.

The total number of Chinese students affected was 831. This represented less than 0.4% of the total population of students from China at respondent institutions.

Mirka Martel, IIE’s head of research, evaluation, and learning spoke about the potential causes of this low number during a press call.

“According to the institutions, the vast majority of enrolled students from China were already on their campuses,” she explained.

“Either they had not left for the winter holidays or they had already returned to campus when the travel restrictions went into effect.”

Some 234 institutions responded to the survey which was administered February 13 – 26.

Participating institutions hosted 175,398 students from China in 2018/19, or 47% of the total population of Chinese students in the US.

Moreover, 19 of the top 20 hosts of international students from China completed the survey.

The rather limited impact is in contrast to Australia, where in excess of 100,000 international students were stranded offshore after the Australian government banned foreign nationals entering from China for 14 days from February 1.

IIE’s survey also found that 100% of all the respondent institutions which had students from China impacted by travel restrictions have been in communication with them.

Some 94% of institutions involved academic advisors, faculty, and various other departments to offer a comprehensive approach to these students.

Regardless of how many students were affected by the travel restrictions, most institutions indicated frequent communications with students regarding their status on their US campus.

Martel explained that “46% offered options for independent or remote study and 38% offered online or distance education classes”.

“40% of institutions specifically mention that they have students finishing in this semester and that they are working with these students to ensure that they would be able to complete their degree,” she added.

However, the survey showed less positive results when it came to the recruitment of prospective Chinese students.

The latest Open Doors 2019 report found that one in three international students in the US was from China, and many institutions rely on this income to balance their books.

According to the survey, 76% of respondent institutions noted that outreach and recruitment of future Chinese students have been affected by Covid-19.

Just over half (51%) of recruitment events in China have been cancelled and 43% of respondents said that the suspension of testing in China is delaying their receiving of student scores (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL).

Institutions also noted concerns about students not being able to obtain official transcripts for applications due to school closures.

About one in five institutions (20%) indicated that they do not have current plans in place for alternative recruitment.

According to the report, many of these institutions said that they are waiting for the situation to evolve and most are hoping to travel once the restrictions lift, although they are aware that this will affect enrolment for the 2020/21 academic year.

Institutions are largely relying on online communication with prospective students, hosting virtual webinars and yield events.

“What we are hearing that it is a multi-pronged approach,” said Martel.

“We saw that there is a really concerted effort to also have messages and virtual communications with prospective international students and international students who are abroad.”

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