Attentive observers won’t be surprised by the new international-enrollment numbers released on Wednesday by the Council of Graduate Schools. But there’s something momentous about the annual report’s key finding: For the first time since the council’s reports began, in 2004, first-time enrollment by Chinese students in graduate programs at American universities actually dropped this year.
The writing has been on the wall for more than a year. In April 2013, the council reported that Chinese applications to American graduate schools fell 5 percent after seven consecutive years of double-digit growth. The drop was so unexpected that the council’s president at the time, Debra W. Stewart, didn’t believe it at first. The possibility that the dip was an aberration was proved unlikely this year, when the council reported that applications from China fell again.