Office of Planning and Budgeting

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual survey of international student applications on Thursday, which revealed that the number of international student applications to U.S. graduate schools increased by 7 percent in 2014 and, for the second year in a row, Chinese applications fell slightly, while those from students in India soared.

Chinese graduate applications (and enrollments) had steadily increased for the better part of a decade. But, in 2013, the number of graduate applications from China dropped by 3 percent and, this year, that number fell by another 1 percent. Meanwhile, Indian applications increased by 22 percent in 2013 and by an even more impressive 32 percent in 2014.

“The distribution of applications by country of origin… remains a concern,” the CGS report states, noting that Chinese applications trends have historically been more stable than Indian applications trends. Past fluctuations in Indian applications appear to have primarily resulted from changing economic circumstances and exchange rates; however CGS’s president, Debra W. Stewart, attributed the recent increase to tightening student-visa rules in the U.K.

The number of new Indian students at English universities dropped by half since 2010-11, which observers partially ascribe to the elimination of post-study work opportunities for international students and, as Inside Higher Ed notes, other U.K. immigration policy changes that have made the U.K. appear less welcoming of international students.

According to an article by The Chronicle, “Stewart said she worries that unless American lawmakers reform the visa system to make it easier for international students to stay and work after graduation, the United States could lose whatever edge it may have.”

The Chinese slowdown is likely a more permanent change resulting (at least partially) from China’s push to improve its own research universities. The report’s other noteworthy findings include that Brazilian graduate applications increased by 33 percent—which could be due in part to the Brazilian government’s massive scholarship program—and that graduate applications from Africa, Europe and the Middle East (the three world regions reported on) all showed increases as well.

Figures for 2014 are preliminary and subject to revision in a CGS report planned for August.

TICAS recently published a white paper entitled “Should All Student Loan Payments Be Income-Driven? Trade-Offs and Challenges.” The white paper does a great job of summarizing existing income-driven repayment (IDR) plans that are available to students in the US (see the table below, which was drawn from page 4 of the report). TICAS highlights the complicated nature of many of the IDR options, and questions whether the US should automatically enroll students in IDR, as is the case in the UK and Australia. While automatically enrolling borrowers in IDR may help reduce default rates and lessen the burden of student loans, it may also increase the time horizon for paying off loans, thereby increasing the amount that borrowers ultimately pay over the lifetime of the loan.

Summary of Existing Income-Driven Repayment Plans in the US

 

Available

Eligibility

Monthly Payment Cap

Discharge After

Income-Based Repayment (Classic IBR)

Since 2009

All borrowers with federal student loans (Direct or FFEL), new or old, with a partial financial hardship (PFH).

15% of discretionary

income

25 years

Income-Based

Repayment

(2014 IBR)

Starting July

2014

Borrowers who take out their first loan on or after July 1, 2014, and have a PFH.

10% of discretionary

income

20 years

Pay As You Earn

(PAYE)

Since late 2012

Direct Loan borrowers who took out their first loan after Sept. 30, 2007 and at least one after Sept. 30, 2011, and have a PFH.

10% of discretionary

income

20 years

Income-Contingent

Repayment (ICR)

Since 1994

Borrowers with Direct Loans, new or old; no PFH requirement.

The lesser of: 20% of

discretionary income and

12-yr repayment amount x

income percentage factor

25 years

For more information on the details of IDR and the benefits and challenges of the system, please check out the TICAS report.

Representative Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chairman, released his FY15 budget proposal on Tuesday. The proposal would remove the in-school interest subsidy for all subsidized undergraduate student loans, eliminate mandatory funding for Pell Grants, and freeze the maximum Pell Grant award at $5,730 for the next 10 years.

As Office of Federal Relations put it in their blog post, “That essentially means that $870 in the maximum grant would have to be funded by increased discretionary funds or the maximum be cut from $5,730 to $4,860.”

Please see the Federal Relations website for more information, and check out articles by Equity Line, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle.