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New ICE Report on International Students Shows Enrollment Decline

ICE released its annual “SEVIS by the Numbers” report, showing a decline in the international student population for 2019. The report highlights data tracked through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a web-based system DHS uses to manage information on nonimmigrants in the U.S. whose primary purpose is to study. The latest report relies on data from the calendar year 2019. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) manages SEVIS and is part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The system tracks information on F-1 students participating in academic programs of study, M-1 students participating in vocational studies, and J-1 exchange visitors participating in a Department of State-designated exchange visitor program.

The report shows that active F-1 and M-1 students declined 1.7 percent to 1,523,758, while J-1 program participation increased 1.7 percent to 532,711. The number of SEVP-certified schools eligible to enroll nonimmigrant students dropped by 287 to 8,649. Nonimmigrant students came to study in the U.S. from 225 different countries and pursued 1,353 different primary majors, across a variety of education levels.

Geographical Trends

Asia is still the top continent of origin for students, but there was a 2.4 percent decline in the student population in 2019.

  • At just over 1.1 million students, Asia accounted for 74.6 percent of the nonimmigrant student population.
  • Africa, Australia and the Pacific Islands, and South America saw increases of .44 percent, 1.10 percent, and .03 percent, respectively.
  • China had the largest number of students (474,497), with India (249,221), and South Korea (84,071) rounding out the top three countries, despite decreases in student records from these countries.
  • There were 78,366 nonimmigrant students at K-12 schools with almost 70% coming from five countries: 47% were from China, 8.6% from South Korea, 7.5% from Vietnam, 3.4% from Mexico, and 3.1% from Brazil.

Degrees and Primary Majors

Approximately 86 percent of all F-1 and M-1 students were enrolled in associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral programs.

  • Associate’s degrees accounted for 7% of agrees pursued, but the number of students declined by 8.1% from 2018 to 116,734 students.
  • Bachelor’s and master’s degrees decreased slightly with 517,556 pursuing bachelor’s degrees (down 0.88%) and 494,099 pursuing master’s degrees (down 0.9%).
  • Students in doctoral degree programs increased by 5.2% to 187,902.
  • The top majors were Second Language Learning, Business Administration and Management (General), Computer Science, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and Computer and Information Sciences (General).
  • Approximately 52% of students were enrolled in one of the top 20 majors.

Training in the U.S.

Some students may be eligible for employment authorization through Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

  • In 2019, there was a 4% decrease in pre-and post-completion OPT participants reported to have worked for an employer.
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) OPT employment dropped by 3.6% from 2018.
  • Students utilizing CPT employment authorization dropped significantly from 151,525 to 116,337, over a 23% decrease.

Student Employment

The top OPT employer was AZTech Technologies, employing 734 students in 2019.

  • Amazon, Google, Masswell Development Group, and Robert Half rounded out the top five employers with 569, 268, 263, and 252 student employees respectively.
  • Amazon also topped the STEM OPT employer list, with 2,431 students in 2019, followed by Google with 955, Microsoft with 700, Intel with 690, and Deloitte with 676 students.
  • The top CPT employers look similar, with the addition of Facebook at the third spot. Amazon employed 2,086 in the top spot, with Google employing 1,158, Facebook with 1,090, Microsoft with 730, and Deloitte with 672 students.
  • Visit the SEVP Data Library for complete lists of the top 200 OPT, STEM OPT, and CPT employers.

Are you an employer looking for pathways to hiring the best global talent? Contact us to discuss how you can train students to join your workforce.

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