MAY 2021
The Monthly Dispatch
The latest research and announcements from your NEBHE policy team
Upcoming Events
NEBHE/WICHE Webinar | Mental Health on College Campuses During a Pandemic
June 1, 12:00 pm ET

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NEBHE Fact Sheet | COVID-19 Vaccination Figures for the Top 20 Sending Markets to U.S. Higher Education
May 2021

News | Rhode Island Makes Promise Program Permanent
May 2021

Report | State Higher Education Finance, Fiscal Year 2020, SHEEO
May 2021

International Student Webinar Series
Episode 1: Connecting Policy to Practice: International Student Recruitment and Enrollment in New England
April 26, 2021
Episode 2: The Student On-Campus Experience Matters: International Student Retention and Success in New England
May 3, 2021

Episode 3: A New Vulnerable Workforce: Higher Education’s Role in Regional Workforce Development and Retaining International Students Post-graduation
May 26, 2021

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The International Student Lifecycle in New England
5 Things I Learned During NEBHE's Recent Webinar Series on International Students

By Stephanie M. Murphy, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Policy
  1. Travel bans, visa processing delays, and new China policies have hindered international student recruitment.
  2. Zoom has increased access to prospective international students.
  3. Integration should not simply mean assimilation.
  4. International students attend community colleges to learn English, get more academic support, and accelerate their degree completion.
  5. International students want more work opportunities. Employers need more talent. Let's strengthen the two groups' connection.
NOTE: Video recordings of the webinar series at left under "ICYMI"

1,075,496 international students were enrolled at U.S. higher educations institutions in 2019/20, which accounted for 5.5% of total undergraduate enrollment in the U.S. (2020 Open Doors Report)

Given the importance of international students to American higher education, NEBHE, in partnership with the Global Alliance for International Student Advancement, the New England Council, and the New Hampshire College & University Council, recently hosted a three-part webinar series on the international students in New England. Each episode focused on a different stage of the student lifecycle: recruitment, retention, and post-graduation success and workforce integration.

Here are five takeaways from the series.
1) International students have been mired by many of the estimated 400 federal immigration policy/regulatory changes that have occurred in recent years.

Some of the biggest changes include:
  • Travel Bans: While several of the bans have been overturned by the courts, and waivers are available to individuals who are currently studying at a U.S. institution, the most harmful impact has been among prospective international students who fear they are not welcome in the U.S. In January, President Biden overturned the travel ban upon taking office.
  • Visa Processing Delays: During the pandemic, the time to process visa paperwork has increased from 90 days to as long as five months. Even if consulates and embassies abroad were to reopen right away at 100% capacity, there is an estimated four-month backlog of visa applications. These delays in processing paperwork have led to uncertainty and limited opportunity among those seeking to study in the U.S.
  • China Policies: Several bills have been introduced in Congress as part of a larger "China package," including:
  • Safeguarding American Innovation Act (2020): Section 5 would expand the Secretary of State's ability to deny visas for international security reasons.
  • Strategic Competition Act of 2021: This bill includes a new investment in research and technology to counter Chinese competition. Additionally, the bill could effectively subject grants, contracts, or gifts above $1 million from foreign sources to U.S. government approval — a proposal that has alarmed university lobbyists and research officials.

2) COVID-19 has changed the international student recruitment timeline.
Before the pandemic, international student recruitment adhered to a traditional fall/spring timeline. However, once Zoom replaced nearly all forms of human interaction in March 2020, engagement with prospective international students expanded to a year-round cycle. Of course, recruiters needed to be more flexible, often meeting with students at 5:00 am or 11:00 pm local time to accommodate the schedules of individuals across the globe. Yet, virtual recruitment has helped increased access to prospective students during the full calendar year.

3) Too often, integration is treated as a synonym for assimilation. Campuses need to rethink that.
According to Dr. Gerardo Blanco, Director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, "We often talk about integration when what we really mean is the assimilation of international students into our existing academic culture. We need to reimagine what integration means [to] transform our institutions" so they can better serve our international students and academic workforce. The onus shouldn't be completely on international students and scholars to conform. Rather, institutions need to identify ways they can adapt to their diverse campus population.

4) 80,000 international students are enrolled at a community college — or 7.4% of all international students in the U.S.
While conversations about international students tend to focus on four-year institutions, there are several reasons why thousands of individuals in this population choose to enroll at a community college, including:
  • To become more fluent in English. The number one course taken by international students at community colleges is speech — most often because these individuals fear public speaking in English. Many community colleges have intensive English language programs — such as the new program that was recently launched at Bunker Hill Community College — and they will admit students with low TOEFL scores, which means these students can learn English while earning credit toward a degree.
  • Great faculty support. Smaller class sizes and a lighter research load among community college faculty often mean that community college students can get more direct academic support from their instructors.
  • To accelerate their time to completion. International students often enroll in classes at a local community college in addition to taking a full load at a four-year institution. Why? Simply put, time is money. The quicker an international student can complete enough credits to earn their degree, the less their education costs and the more likely they are to complete their studies.

5) New England's employers need more talent. International students want more work opportunities. We need to work with both parties to help them meet their reciprocal goals. 
“The allure of the U.S. for international students today isn’t only about the higher education they will receive, but also about the potential work opportunities they could gain,” stated Dr. Stephanie Kim, Assistant Professor of the Practice and Faculty Director of Higher Education Administration at Georgetown University. And among the region's employers, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored their need to find workers to close the talent deficit. In a recent survey of tech sector employers in New Hampshire, respondents cited the workforce as their greatest concern and indicated a fear that they will be unable to fill mid- to senior-level tech roles in the state post-pandemic. Many companies have quickly adapted to the future of human capital by adopting permanent "work from anywhere" policies, which have allowed them to expand the talent pool from which they hire. According to Jennifer Pollard, Associate Provost and Executive Director of Wellesley College Career Education, moving forward, "we need to be proactive about working with students and employers to help both parties actively meet their goals."
COVID-19 and Higher Education
Data Tracker
Check out our COVID-19 resources to explore how New England's postsecondary institutions are responding to the ongoing health crisis.

Note: All New England states have announced that they will vaccinate out-of-state postsecondary students who are enrolled at a higher education institution in the region.
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We welcome your thoughts on what you'd like to see us write about. Contact Stephanie Murphy at

As always, thanks for reading.