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Trump's policies not slowing Worcester schools' international applications, yet

WPI has the largest concentration of international students of any Worcester school, with roughly one-fourth being foreign born.

Despite concerns nationally among colleges and universities over new federal policies scaring away international applicants, Worcester schools have seen no such impact.

“The international students applying this year began their process long before the election results were known,” said Andrew Palumbo, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “By then, most of them would have already narrowed their list of preferred universities.”

WPI, Clark University, Quinsigamond Community College, Becker College and Worcester State University all reported no significant changes, even as a national study last month from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers said 39 percent of more than 250 schools said their overseas applications had fallen, particularly from Middle East countries. The study cited President Donald Trump's two immigration bans, along his proposed border wall with Mexico.

A slightly smaller number of colleges, 35 percent, said applications had risen.

Time will tell

Most students – domestic and international – begin their college search process anywhere from 18 to 24 months prior to enrolling, said Palumbo.

“Therefore, I do expect schools will see a decline in international applications over the next two to three years, but those declines will likely result from students who would be less serious about studying here anyway,” he said.

Palumbo pointed out applications is a poor metric on this topic, as college enrollments will be the true gauge of how federal policies impact international students' willingness to come to WPI and other Worcester schools. Those enrollment figures will be available next year.

Applicants this year

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has by far the city's largest foreign-born student population. At the start of the 2016-17 school year, WPI counted nearly 1,400 international students, about two-third of which are graduate students. Most are from either China or India, but 30 are from Iran and Libya, two of the six nations that could be banned under Trump.

Of WPI's roughly 6,400 students this year, one-fourth are foreign-born. Applications from overseas prospective students are up so far this year, the college said, without offering specific data.

Clark University has already exceeded its international applications from last year, with more than 2,500 so far, it said. International students make up more than 800, or about one-fourth, of the school's 3,300-student enrollment.

Clark doesn't know how many applicants will end up enrolling.

QCC has seen an increase so far this year, with 50 applications putting the college on pace to exceed last year's number of 87. QCC has students from 36 countries, including China, Iran, Ghana, Kenya, Albania, Congo, Russia, Syria and Vietnam.

“We've attributed that to that we're an immigrant city, a gateway city,” said Mishawn Davis-Eyene, QCC's admissions director.

QCC overseas applicants have raised some concerns about President Trump's proposed travel ban, she said, but very few are from the six affected countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Iraq was taken off of Trump's latest travel ban.

“They may think, if these countries are banned, what are the next countries that may be banned?” Davis-Eyene said.

Worcester State University and Becker College said they didn't have a significant change in international applications. Both have small foreign-born student populations, including less than 1 percent of the student body at Worcester State.

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