Higher Education Enrollment Decline Expected to Attract Indian Students

The number of Indian students who choose to study in American universities is projected to increase fivefold to over 1 million per year by 2030. This surge is anticipated due to a significant decline in the number of college-age students in the US, also known as the “enrollment cliff.”

According to experts in the field of studying abroad, the US could reach the enrollment cliff as early as 2025. As a result, there could be a 15-20% rise in the number of Indian students enrolling in American universities by 2026.

In 2023, a total of 268,923 Indian students opted to pursue their education in the US.

“This enrollment cliff is an event that has been set in motion since the late 2000s, when the recession created uncertainty in the job market, leading to a decrease in birth rates in the subsequent years,” explained Akshay Chaturvedi, the CEO of Leverage.biz. “Over time, this has translated into a continuous decline in K-12 enrollment figures throughout the country. The cliff is expected to have an impact on the college education landscape in 2025, approximately 16-17 years after 2008.”

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The enrollment of undergraduate students in American universities has been steadily declining.

The number of undergraduate students enrolled in American universities (in millions) Year 18.08 2010-11 15.85 2020-21 15.1 2022-23

An increase in the number of Indian students studying in America.

Number of Indian students in the US Year 167,582 2020-21 199,182 2021-22 268,923 2022-23 Expected 1 million* 2029-30

Source: Open Doors Report 2022 and 2023 + Expert Projections

According to the National Center for Education Statistics of the US Department of Education, the enrollment of undergraduate students in the US reached its peak in 2010-11 with 18.1 million students. Since then, there has been a steady decline, with a significant drop during the first full academic year of the pandemic.

As of fall 2022, the number of undergraduate students enrolled was just under 15.1 million, as estimated by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Since 2020, approximately 1.23 million American undergraduates have disappeared from college and university campuses, marking a 4% decrease.

The situation is worsened by the decreasing number of American high school graduates.

In the past 3-5 years, American universities have actively pursued international student admissions.

For the third consecutive year in 2023, a record number of Indian students traveled to the US for higher education, according to the Open Doors Report. The academic year 2022-23 saw a 35% increase in the number of Indian students studying in the US, with a total of 268,923 students. In 2022, 199,182 students from India went to the US.

Indian students account for over a fourth of the total foreign students studying in the US.

Raghwa Gopal, CEO of M Square Media, suggests that the enrollment decline caused by demographic changes might prompt American institutions to enhance their offerings to international students.

‚ÄúThis includes not only financial incentives but also expanded support services, career development opportunities, and programs that cater to the global job market,” said Gopal.

While Vibha Kagzi, CEO of ReachIvy.com, believes that highly ranked universities will be shielded from the enrollment cliff, she acknowledges the existence of pent-up demand for higher education abroad, which American colleges are eager to meet.

“I anticipate a 15-20% growth in the number of Indian students currently in the US by 2026. This influx of talent benefits both countries,” she stated.

Chaturvedi, on the other hand, is more optimistic about the prospects.

“In the US, we are observing the highest demand for universities in Ohio, California, Texas, Massachusetts, the New York area, and Illinois. I expect the number of Indian students enrolled in US universities to surpass 1 million, increasing more than fivefold by the end of this decade,” he predicted.

Although the potential change in administration could impact visa regulations for international students in the US, Kagzi believes that universities will advocate for favorable visa policies to enable the enrollment of qualified global talent.

“Given the enrollment pressures facing universities, the demand for Indian students is expected to persist regardless of any change in administration,” she affirmed.