By Tamar Lewin
The number of international students applying to graduate schools in the United States increased just 1 percent this year, after a 9 percent rise last year and an 11 percent gain in 2011, according to a report from the Council of Graduate Schools.
The increase was the smallest in eight years, the report said, primarily because of a 5 percent decline in applications from China, the home of about a third of the international graduate students in the United States.
Graduate enrollment among students from China rose 22 percent from 2011 to 2012, the seventh consecutive year of double-digit growth.
Applications from India, which sends the second largest number of students, increased by 20 percent. Applications from Brazil increased as well, while the number applying from Canada, Europe, Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan declined.
Debra W. Stewart, the president of the council, said the numbers were worrisome.
“While the large increases in applications from India and Brazil are encouraging, the decrease in Chinese applicants needs attention,” she said. “As a country, we simply can’t afford to maintain obstacles to international graduate study, especially as other countries are decreasing these barriers for highly qualified students.”
But Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor of the International Institute of Education, was less concerned.
“The declining number of applications from China could mean that students are just applying to fewer schools, or that they are not applying as much to schools they wouldn’t get into, or that more are staying home or studying in Hong Kong, and I’m betting it’s a combination of all three factors,” she said. “Students have more options and better advising than they used to. I’d be surprised if the final number of enrollments is down anywhere near as much as the applications.”
Applications for the three most popular fields of study — engineering, physical and earth sciences, and business — grew this year, while there was declining interest in studying education or life sciences.
A growing number of students applied to public universities for the fall of 2013, while applications to study at private universities declined.