PITTSBURG — New international students at Pittsburg State University have been taking the week to get acclimated with the campus ‚ but fewer are taking the tours than in past years.
PSU officials said affairs in other countries factors into students studying abroad. Some new arrivals also felt the election of President-elect Donald Trump could account for the drop in international students, saying people may fear the country is less open-minded.
“It scares me because the president influences the people,” said Yeonji Ryu of South Korea. “The thoughts about different races could change.”
Others were not as concerned.
Juho Haro, of Finland, said he is not concerned about being deported because he is here legally.
"It's illegal immigrants Trump spoke about deporting," he said. The 22-year-old added the election was more intensely covered in Finland than any other U.S. presidential race he remembers.
Axel Brown, of Paraguay, thought Trump was just a man “who talks a lot.”
“We’ll see if he builds his wall,” Brown said.
Trump’s inauguration is Jan. 20.
The new students said the changing gun law was also a concern, but felt PSU is a safe campus. As of July 1, concealed carry will be permitted on state campuses across Kansas.
The official spring enrollment numbers for all students, including international, are not given until the 20 day count. PSU was able to provide international student figures for the fall semesters of 2013 to 2016.
The figures show a mushroom pattern. Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success Howard Smith said the number of international students has historically gone up and down.
The last two fall semesters have seen a drop.
“We really don’t know what has caused the decline,” he said, adding PSU is working on a plan to attract students from all over the world.
Smith said the market is competitive and would not talk in detail about the plan. He also said PSU will look at other university trends on international students and see if there is a correlation.
As of fall 2016, Saudi Arabia was the most represented international student group on campus — with 27 percent of the 483 students. Second was India at just over 18 percent.
PSU will likely have even fewer Saudi Arabian students in the future, as the government there announced stricter requirements for the foreign scholarship program. The announcement comes amid budget shortfalls because of the drop in oil prices.
This comes at a time when the Kansas has faced its own budget shortfalls and cut higher education funding twice the past two school years, leaving PSU to rely more on enrollment revenue.
PSU reported its first enrollment drop the last several years in fall 2016. PSU officials said the drop in international students was part of the problem. The average annual cost for an undergraduate, international student is roughly $27,000.
According to the Institute of International Education, the number of international students in the U.S., at both public and private institutions, has increased each year from the 2005/2006 school year to the 2015/2016 school year — from 564,766 to 1,043,839 students.
In 2015/2016, China was No. 1, accounting for roughly 31 percent of all international students.
Kansas State University international students increased each fall from 2008 to 2014, but have seen a decline the last two fall semesters. China made up roughly 38 percent of KSU’s international students in fall 2016.
The University of Kansas had its first notable drop in international students in eight years during the fall of 2016, when China made up roughly 42 percent of students from abroad.
— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.