Number of enrolled international students dropped in Fall 2020


Daniel Wilcox

Graph of international students over the past five years

Daniel Wilcox, Editor-in-Chief

The number of currently-enrolled international students has fallen significantly this term, with the current tally for the fall totalling 167 students. This is down from a previous high of 247 in the 2019-2020 academic year. This is the first drop in the number of international students at Union since 2017, when the number fell to 178 from the previous year’s 203. This drop has been discussed as being due to the increased political uncertainty surrounding immigration after the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, and was evidenced by a 6.6 percent drop in new college enrollments in 2017-2018, compared to the previous year, according to Reuters. 

According to Michelle Pawlowski, the Assistant Director of International Advising, this year the drop is “due to COVID-19,” with some students withdrawing from their studies, and some members of the first year class deciding to “defer until January or Fall 2021.” Pawlowski also confirmed that first year students who had been unable to apply for and receive their visas were “still able to enroll and take classes online,” if they chose to do so.

This term, with the college campus open to those that were able and desired to return, a majority of the current international students are studying online, with 93 taking their classes remotely, and 74 returning to campus. Regarding the support that international students were given, Pawlowski explained that the “Making U Possible persistence funds” allowed many students to afford their flights home during the campus evacuation in March, with services such as DormRoomMovers being used to “help with storage fees.” Moreover, Pawlowski continued, saying that there were “many town halls and info sessions available” during the spring and summer, with the International Advising Office providing “information on USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) regulations.” 

Although more international students are expected to return for the Winter term, Pawlowski explained that she has spoken to many students who have “expressed the desire to remain home until the virus is under control.” When international students, or students from certain states, return to New York State, they will be required to quarantine for two weeks, identical to this past term. Pawlowski spoke of the provisions made for students at the beginning of the fall, describing the “paid hotel rooms” and “food allowance through GrubHub,” that students could take advantage of.

One of the students who returned to campus from his home country of Greece, was Christos Kakogiannis ’22. He explained that the move-in process was “very smooth,” and he was glad of the college allowing him and his fellow students to stay in a hotel during their quarantine period. He also noted that the college assigned an employee to keep in contact with quarantining students, saying that this was “very satisfying.” Discussing the college providing credit for GrubHub, Kakogiannis explained that this was “appreciated”, especially with the “variety of food options,” however he did end up spending some of his own money on food, despite spending the funds “moderately.” His initial testing was also “very organized,” allowing him to quickly move onto campus after his quarantining period.