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From Emergency Response to Planning for Future Student Mobility

The masters report in IIE COVID-19 Snapshot Series is now out. The second survey opened on 16 April 2020 and focused on the effects of COVID-19 on US Higher education institutions’ emergency response and planning for future student mobility. While the ongoing situation is still being monitored, this report examines campus life, international students both on campus and those who could not come for the spring semester, and US students studying abroad. It also looks ahead to summer and fall 2020 and the recruitment of international students, as well as student interest in future study abroad.

Key Findings from the Report

599 U.S. higher education institutions completed the survey from every state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico—an incredible achievement and response!
The report focuses on the effects of COVID-19 on U.S. higher education institutions in the following areas:

  1. Campus life in spring 2020

  • 91% of institutions closed their campus buildings and offices and most canceled all travel for students, faculty and staff during the spring semester.
  • Over half of institutions (54%) noted that dormitories and housing were closed. However, some specified that limited housing was made available for international students and at-risk students without alternative housing options.
  • 99.5% of institutions (all but three institutions) moved all in-person classes to virtual instruction. 

    2. International students in spring 2020

  • 138 respondent institutions (or 31%) indicated that approximately 3,100 students were not able to come to their campus this spring as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. This represents approximately 0.6% of the total international student body on these campuses. Most students were already on campus at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Institutions reported that over 251,000 international students were on their campuses in spring 2020. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 18,551 international students have left. 92% of international students from these institutions have remained in the United States, whether on campus or in another location.


    3. U.S. study abroad in spring 2020

  • Institutions reported over 22,000 of their students were studying abroad at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Over 17,700 of these students were evacuated. Most institutions reported students studying abroad in European countries deeply affected by COVID-19, including the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain.

   4. Looking ahead: Summer and fall 2020

  • 76% of institutions indicate that their instruction in summer 2020 will be virtual. Only one institution noted that it planned to have in-person instruction this summer.
  • The decision for fall 2020 is still largely uncertain. 85% of institutions note that they have not decided on their mode of instruction in the fall.
  • 88% of institutions anticipate that international student enrollment will decline in academic year 2020/21, with 30% indicating a substantial decrease.
  • 70% of institutions anticipate that at least some international students will not be able to come to their campus in the fall, or will be delayed. A smaller subset of institutions provided specific estimates of how many international students they expect to be impacted. Our analysis indicates that these institutions anticipate that approximately 16% of their international student body will not be able to come to campus in-person in fall 2020.
  • Nearly all study abroad programs (93%) have been canceled or partially canceled for summer 2020.
  • However, 74% of study abroad programs have not yet decided on fall activities, as this will likely be impacted by restrictions in the United States and other countries on travel.


The report is available here.