Number of UC Berkeley international applicants decreases for 1st time in decade

Emily Zhong/Staff

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UC Berkeley saw a 1.2 percent decrease in international freshman applicants for the 2016-17 admissions cycle the first dip in international applications the campus has experienced in over a decade, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The amount of California resident freshman applicants to UC Berkeley increased by 7.7 percent and the number of out-of-state applicants decreased by 4.1 percent. UC Berkeley, along with UC Riverside, are the only two out of nine UC campuses that saw a decrease in international undergraduate applicants, with UC Riverside experiencing a 2.2 percent decrease.

“Our freshman applications from international students did drop by about 200, from 15,660 for fall 2016 to 15,462 for 2017. (It was 14,687 for fall 2015),” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. “We do not anticipate that this drop will have an impact on our ability to select a solid class in terms of academics, geographic and cultural diversity, special talents etc.”

Gilmore also mentioned in an email that the only significant difference in the international application review was the addition of the optional virtual interview to evaluate English fluency, which has been conducted for the last three years.

According to Ricardo Vazquez, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, admissions data could be released “maybe in April.” Once the UCOP has enrollment figures, they will have a better idea about how to analyze this drop in international undergraduate applications.

“At this point, we have no certainty what caused this decline — there could be a number of possible factors, (such as) the fact that tuition for non-residents has been increasing for the past (three) years,” Vazquez said. “We have focused our recruiting efforts on California residents, and out-of-state students no longer receive financial aid, (which) could’ve affected this decrease.”

Vazquez added that international students do not receive financial aid and must demonstrate that they can finance their education in order to attend UC Berkeley. Ivor Emmanuel, the director of the UC Berkeley International Office, which provides advising, advocacy and immigration services to international students, said he would not connect the decrease in international applicants to the political climate in the United States without the complete breakdown of international application and enrollment statistics by country.

“The 15,000-plus number is a very healthy applicant pool from which we can choose very outstanding, qualified students,” Emmanuel said. “However, I would certainly pay close attention to our numbers given the current political environment. … The target for Berkeley is for a 10 percent nonresident international enrollment. That is a number we have attained in the past couple years, and I don’t foresee any problems with maintaining that number because of the size of the applicant pool.”

Emmanuel added that BIO has been working to provide international students with advice such as avoiding nonessential travel and consulting BIO advisers for visa updates and extra precautions while outside of the United States to ensure a smooth return.

Members of international student organizations such as the International Students Association at Berkeley have also expressed nervousness about the current political climate affecting their community on campus. An executive order issued by President Trump in March removes priority entry for refugees citing discrimination as religious minorities in their countries. The order also lifts the travel ban between Iraq and the United States while still restricting travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“Students from other countries, they’re immersed in their own home country’s politics, so very few would have extensive knowledge about American politics,” said Jay Sananvatananont, the president of ISAB. “They must be influenced by snippets of the media, which is more controversial rhetoric from President Trump. If there are less international students, that means our organization has a greater burden to provide a community and space for international students in pursuit for our mission in terms of providing a community.”

A total of 85,012 students applied to UC Berkeley’s freshman class of 2017. Most of the international freshman applicants to UC Berkeley come from China, India, South Korea, Canada and Singapore, according to Vazquez.

“When you do a country-by-country breakdown, because some countries have a smaller number of applicants, it’s not unusual to have a little bit of a statistical blip from year to year,” Vazquez said. “Sure, students are not impervious to the political climate, and those kinds of issues could have been on their mind.”

Contact Ananya Sreekanth at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @asreekanth_dc.

Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that tuition for nonresident students has been increasing for the past eight years. In fact, tuition for nonresident students has been increasing for the past three years.