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Data show Chinese students are steering clear of the US

Students move back into the dorm for fall semester.
Reuters/Emily Elconin
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  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Covid-19 has led to a massive decline in international students coming to the US.

Overall visits to the US from people on student visas fell by 61% in the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to data released yesterday by the US Department of Commerce (The report doesn’t include information on Canada and Mexico). Visits by the same person are counted multiple times, so the data reflect both fewer foreign students entering the US for the first time, and fewer students making trips back and forth between the US and their home country.

The biggest drop from any country came from China, with student visa visits falling by almost 70%. Since the late 1970s, the number of Chinese students in the US grew from less than 1,000 to almost 370,000 in 2019, making China the US’s number one source of international students. The Department of Commerce reported that international students contributed $44 billion to the US economy in 2018, $15 billion of which came from Chinese students.

This year, the US’s inability to control Covid-19 kept many Chinese students away, but a ban on students and researchers with ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army also played a role in the drop.

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