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Chair Tom Dretler sees that demand is high for a U.S. university education, especially in STEM fields and MBA programs, and among international students from China and India. Here’s why. 

Four international students arrive at US customs and hold out their passports
Dear Students, Parents and Counselors,

March marks a pivotal month for international students across the world: U.S. universities start to release their admissions decisions for the next school year, while students get a jump start on their academic programs and begin the visa application process.

This year in particular is a notable one in terms of safety and a return to normalcy: Vaccine distribution in the U.S. continues to ramp up, with more than 2 million doses being administered each day. And at U.S. News Global Education, March marks the release of our annual U.S. News Graduate Rankings, which can help students in their final decision on where they are going to attend graduate school in the fall.

Global crises often fuel education demand, especially at the graduate level, and the COVID pandemic looks to be consistent, with international applications on the rise: Despite pandemic headwinds, graduate schools in the U.S. saw the highest number of international applications in history, with more than 550,000 interested students across the world seeking admission to our graduate programs. China continues to lead global demand for U.S. graduate education, with 37% of U.S. graduate enrollments, followed by India at 22%. STEM degrees also continue to be the most coveted among international students, with engineering, math and computer science degrees having the highest enrollments.

Another major driver of demand? The U.S. technology industry that continues to support and lift up top international talent. In fact, a 2018 National Foundation for American Policy reported that more than half of U.S. “tech unicorns” (i.e., technology startups valued at $1 billion or higher) had at least one immigrant founder, including Uber and SpaceX.

Navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in increased applications to MBA programs, which can provide exceptional training for learning how to manage and lead through complex, dynamic situations. When I attended Harvard Business School to earn my MBA, one of the key learnings that impacted my career was how to execute in the face of uncertainty.

Most encouraging, U.S. President Biden continues to support policies favorable to international students, including more vaccines being approved, increased vaccine distribution across the U.S. and supporting universities returning to on-campus classes and experiences.

There’s a lot to be hopeful about for fall and international students should feel confident to come to campus for a safe and healthy school year. As just one example, American University, a flagship private university located in the U.S. capital, Washington D.C., has welcomed international students for decades — and is especially eager and prepared to continue their commitment to international education this year.

Sharmeen Ahsan-Bracciale, managing director of the International Accelerator at American University, told me, “we welcome international students with open arms! Since March, the American community has learned a lot and made many updates, including stronger IT support and enhancements to Canvas and Blackboard systems, to name just a few [changes]. In spite of the recent challenges, the university community has come out strong and now, more than ever, values its students.”

See you on campus soon.

Tom Dretler
Chair, U.S. News Global Education
Cofounder and CEO, Shorelight
Board member, Johns Hopkins University School of Education


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