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Credit: Lizzy Machielse

For the first time in 12 years, the number of new international students enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities has dropped, according to a new report released on Nov. 28 by the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The total number of international students enrolled at U.S. institutions in the fall of 2016 fell by three percent from the previous year, with 10,000 fewer new students overall. In a separate online survey conducted in September and October of this year in conjunction with several other organizations, the IIE found that the international new student enrollment rate is continuing to drop, with an average seven percent decrease this fall.

Experts have suggested that this dip in numbers is associated with the rise of President Donald Trump, who has implemented a range of controversial immigration reform policies. Apart from pushing forth a series of travel bans, Trump has also worked to reverse the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and the Temporary Protected Status program, both of which have affected students nationwide. 

“It's a mix of factors,” Rajika Bhandari, head of research for the IIE, told the The New York Times. “Concerns around the travel ban had a lot to do with concerns around personal safety based on a few incidents involving international students, and a generalized concern about whether they’re safe.”

But IIE President Allan Goodman said it was too early to attribute the results to the Trump administration. He said competition from other countries, such as Canada and Britain, have also contributed to the declining rate.

Penn has not seen a decrease in international students. According to the IIE report, the total number of foreign students in the University has increased by 250 students this year, from 6,221 to 6,471 students. Foreign students at Penn include any non-American citizen who is enrolled in a U.S. institution, meaning that immigrants without citizenship who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives are also counted as foreign students. All international students, who had to cross an international border to attend, are also included in the foreign student count. 

Overall, the total number of international students in the U.S. rose by three percent to 1.08 million students in 2016, a record-high number. However, this increase was the result of international students staying enrolled longer than in previous years, The Washington Post reported.