2020 has been a year of change and uncertainty. As we head towards the new year, amid rising cases of Covid-19, an economic recession, and the newly elected Biden-Harris administration, international education policies can expect a reset.
We take a look at what the Biden presidency means for higher education, and how student marketers should be preparing for yet another change to the international recruitment landscape.
Out with the old, in with the new
It’s no secret that the US higher education system has long enjoyed a preeminent status worldwide, and colleges in recent years have become increasingly reliant on international students, who contributed as much as $38 billion to the US economy in 2019 alone.
However, the past four years have been one of the most challenging periods for recruiting international students, as several of the Trump administration’s policies have made it harder for them to study in the US. Under Biden’s presidency, policies that hinder international students' capacity to experience what they’re entitled to may be rolled back, eliminating uncertainties that could cause international students to look to other countries instead.
But just because it may become easier to study in the US again, doesn’t mean students will automatically want to. So make sure your messaging is on point, highlight the benefits of US study at your institution over other destinations, and ensure your prospective students feel welcomed. And ask them what they need from you; whether it’s information on studying abroad, or details of relevant activities and societies on campus, to help them feel engaged and connected.
Get to grips with visa requirements
The international enrollment rate has underperformed under the Trump administration in comparison to the Obama era. Although Biden has not spoken in detail about his plans for international students, we’re likely to see a return to Obama-era policies as his campaign website called for increasing the number of visas for permanent, employment-based immigration while providing mechanisms for temporarily reducing visas during times of high American unemployment, and exempting foreign graduates of US PhD programs in STEM fields from any visa caps.
Stay up to date with any announcements on visas, and communicate this information to your prospective students. Things may be changing fast, but you can be a reliable source of information in a sea of uncertainty; building that trust and connection with your institution.
"The news of the Biden presidency has caused a real sense of relief among our partners that focus on the international landscape. Aligned with Biden's unifying message, we will see international students once again have confidence in the US as a study destination. Overall, this transition should have a positive impact on US international enrollment rates, and we're excited to see how our campaigns in 2021 will be reflective of this."
Stand out from the crowd
When it comes to international student recruitment, it has never been more important to stand out from the crowd in the global digital landscape. Developing an international strategy through understanding your audience's needs and choosing the right digital channels alongside creative that tells a story and creates a connection will show students why they should choose your institution over your competitors.
International students often rank ‘safety’ highly as a deciding factor of where they will go to study, and under the current leadership, Chinese students have particularly had reason to question how safe they will be when studying in the US. But we can hope, with a new administration on the horizon, with inclusivity-first policies at the forefront of what they want to achieve, institutions can show international students that the US offers a home, an opportunity and a place to reach their potential.
In addition, adopting technologies such as Akero can also improve your cost per application while allowing you to track and nurture all of your leads effectively to help you achieve your international recruitment targets.