City College has experienced a steady drop in international students over the past three years, with the current political climate and economy as large contributing factors.
The number of international students went down from approximately 1,200 students in 2016 to less than a 1,000 students in 2018.
Since 2014, City College limited their enrollment rate for international students to the maximum of 1,500 students per semester.
“In the past, the enrollment limit was set as a percentage of the total student enrollment,” said Anthony Beebe, superintendent and president of City College. “Given feedback from staff, managing enrollment to an ever-changing percentage was much more difficult than having a set number.”
According to Carola Smith, senior director of international students, there are multiple reasons why there is a decrease in international students. The rising dollar exchange rates, from 0.73 cents to one dollar in 2104 to 0.87 cents to one dollar in 2018, and the steady visa decline rates are two factors.
“The dollar has been quite strong for a number of years,” Smith said. “Also the housing in Santa Barbara is expensive so that raises the cost of living, so students who are on a limited budget might be looking for lower cost alternatives.”
Smith also said that there have been changes in the visa approval process.
“The U.S. Embassy has been advised to become more stricter in visa approvals, so we have seen significant declines in visa approval rates, particularly from students coming from China and developing countries,” she said.
When Angel Castro, an international student from Guatemala, tried to apply for an F1 visa at the American Embassy, he said he had troubles with his request.
“They asked if I had illegal family here, it was the worst experience of my life,” said Castro.
However, City College is not the only institution that has been seeing decreases in international students the past few years. According to Beebe many other colleges nationwide are seeing similar declines.
“While we don’t have any one specific reason for this, we know that other countries are increasingly promoting study in their countries and the current political climate in the US may also be playing a role,” he said.
Other countries like Canada and Australia have seen significant increases in their international student numbers, said Smith, and they also allow students to work during their studies and have much more liberal regulations for work authorizations upon completion of the students studies.
“We try to create a really welcoming environment for or international students,” Smith continued. “Our faculty love having international students in their classes, and City College has a long history of pro-international education and welcoming international students.”