The Institute of International Education reports a 16 percent decrease in international student enrollment at universities all across the nation.
At Texas Tech University, when comparing enrollment for fall 2019 and fall 2020, that drop is 10.4 percent.
Sukant Misra, vice provost for International Affairs, says the pandemic led to the closure of many embassies and consulates, preventing students from attaining visas.
"It's not just the health concern. There are students who were willing to come, even with the pandemic. But there were travel restrictions imposed," Misra said.
Misra blames the pandemic for creating the perfect storm, but numbers began to drop before it ever began. He says the political rhetoric in the U. S. and the rumors regarding immigration policies may have caused potential students to be concerned.
"The political debate about gun control, racial friction. Whether the magnitude of it was really alarming or not, these people, they pay attention to those type of hype that's in the media," Misra said.
He says Texas Tech is working to make international students feel welcome, since they offer a lot to the campus experience.
"They help us understand how they think. They help us understand their rituals. They help us understand their cultural values. So that enriches all of us to have better appreciation for the humankind," Misra said.
He says international students are the "cream of the crop" from their countries and Justin Louder, associate vice provost for Texas Tech University eLearning, agrees.
He says online enrollment has seen a similar drop due to the uncertainty that surrounds Covid-19 restrictions.
"If they can't get a visa right now to come to the states, what's the guarantee to get one in the future? And so do they really want to start in an online program right now without being sure that they can come back to the United States say in the spring or in the summer?" Louder questioned.
Louder says Texas Tech has increased the number of online classes being offered and the Graduate School and International Affairs are proactively reaching out to international students.
"I think we're doing what we need to do to make sure that students at Tech, either virtually, online, or international, can still get the high quality Tech education from wherever they may be," Louder said.
He is hopeful that enrollment numbers will be back to normal in fall 2021.