Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
13th Dec 2017

US ELT numbers trending down in 2017

A fall 2017 member survey conducted by English USA reveals that a majority of Intensive English Programmes (IEPs) in the US are reporting continued declines in enrolment this year. English USA is the peak body for IEPs in the States with a membership base of roughly 450 programmes. Reflecting some of the programme closures in the US over the past two years, that member base is trending down currently from the previous year’s count of just over 470 IEPs. A flash survey to members in September 2017 yielded 125 responses, which equates to about 28% of the association’s current base. Of those, roughly seven in ten members reported enrolment declines for fall 2017 compared to the year before. About one in five responding members (18.4%) reported enrolment growth, with 40% of those indicating growth of 10% or less. Another 10% of IEPs said that their enrolment was holding steady relative to 2016. Nearly 70% (69.6%), however, reported an enrolment decrease. And almost half of those IEPs indicated a substantial decline in numbers for fall 2017, in the range of a 26–50% drop from 2016. Another 40% said that their numbers were down between 11% and 25% year-over-year. When asked what had contributed most to the decline for fall 2017, responding IEPs cited the current political context in the US as a primary factor (71.72%). Other leading causes noted by respondents included global economic conditions (54.55%), “perceived US visa denials” (47.47%), [a decline in] government-sponsored Saudi scholarship students (46.46%), current US visa policy (44.44%), increasing competition from other destinations (41.41%), and shifts in the exchange rate for the US dollar. For the most part, those responses are pointing back to some of the major factors that have challenged US IEPs over the past two to three years, notably the shifting political climate in the US and the sharp decline in Saudi-sponsored students in intensive English studies. “Most feedback I get from our referral sources is centered around uncertainty students and parents feel,” said one respondent. “Not knowing if policies for students will change and how it will impact them if they choose to study in the USA.” “Our decrease in enrolment started two years ago,” added another, in speaking to the significance of long-term Saudi scholarship students for many US programmes. “We were predominantly Saudi. Scholarship changes have seriously impacted enrolment. We are still at less than half the average enrolment before 2014.” The obvious caution here is that the survey represents only one view of current enrolment trends in the US, and from only a percentage of the English USA membership. We often look to the Institute of International Education (IIE) for a more comprehensive picture of foreign enrolment in the US, and that broader view for 2017 won’t likely be available until spring 2018. The latest full-year data from IIE indicates a 19% drop in student numbers, and a 23% decline in student weeks, between 2015 and 2016. IIE has noted as well, however, that IEP enrolment is also more sensitive to changing market conditions and tends to fluctuate more widely year-over-year. “This is likely due to the very nature of the differences between international students who are coming for multi-year stays to pursue degrees, and language programmes of shorter duration that are more subject to currency fluctuations or other factors,” says IIE Research Specialist Julie Baer. All that said, English USA’s flash survey for fall is an important indicator of how the market is faring this year amidst challenging trading conditions. There is no quick fix to some of those downward pressures on enrolment, especially the imperative to replace the large number of Saudi students that filled many IEP classes in recent years. And IEP administrators and recruiters are working hard to do just that, and to reposition and differentiate their English programmes in an ever-more competitive marketplace. At the 2017 NAFSA conference in June, English USA President Patricia Szasz highlighted that member programmes are moving to counter downward pressures on enrolment by opening new, innovative programmes, including short-term study options, new specialisations, and new pathways and partnerships. Ms Szasz noted that members are also expanding their engagement with education agents and testing new pricing policies in order to build or rebuild IEP enrolments. For additional background, please see:

Most Recent

  • Australian unis brace for risk assessment as visa rejections continue Read More
  • Former edtech unicorn’s stock price plunges as universities take DIY approach to online learning Read More
  • Malaysia opens new post-study visa option for degree graduates Read More

Most Popular

  • Canada’s foreign enrolment grew by more than 30% in 2022 Read More
  • Measuring cost of study and cost of living across study destinations Read More
  • Recruiting in the Emirates: Big goals, world-class education, and new scholarships Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Australian unis brace for risk assessment as visa rejections continue Australia’s education providers continue to grapple with a significant spike in visa rejections. As many as 1 in...
Read more
Malaysia opens new post-study visa option for degree graduates Effective 1 December 2023, Malaysia introduced a package of new visa settings designed to make it easier for...
Read more
New policies, Erasmus+, and booming tourism boost Spain’s international education sector New government policies in Spain – as well as a changed competitive context in the broader international education...
Read more
Dutch universities detail plan to reduce international enrolment The Dutch government spent most of last year signalling its concern about the rapid growth of international student...
Read more
Australia: Visa rejection rates spike as some institutions withdraw admissions offers under new migration settings Australia’s new migration strategy – announced in late 2023 and in effect now – has led to significant...
Read more
Demand for study abroad rising in China but students considering more destinations in 2024 The shape of Chinese outbound student mobility has been changing for years and is different again in 2024....
Read more
Universities UK announces admissions and agent probe In the wake of critical media coverage in recent weeks, the UK’s higher education sector will undertake a...
Read more
Canada: Updated guidance on international student enrolment cap A 5 February statement from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offers some additional detail on the hard...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links