The number of Kenyans enrolled in US higher-education institutions rose last year by nearly four per cent, reaching a total of 3,451 students.
That increase far outpaced the overall rise of .05 per cent in the number of international students counted in the US during the 2018-19 academic year.
A downward trend is also developing as fewer students from other countries are enrolling in US colleges and universities, according to a study published recently by a State Department bureau and by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based NGO.
Last year’s 0.9 per cent drop in new enrolments of international students continued a fall-off underway since the start of the Trump administration in 2017.
Nearly 87 per cent of higher education institutions surveyed by the study’s sponsors cited delays or denials in issuing US visas to student applicants as the top reason for the current drop in new enrolments.
A significant share of the institutions also report that fears of gun violence and an increasingly hostile political atmosphere are causing some potential enrollees to feel unwelcome in the US.
“Institutions noted that the combination of political rhetoric and personal safety continued to cause hesitation for prospective international students and their families,” study authors state in regard to a survey carried out this month.
Kenyan students, however, appear largely undeterred by these concerns. Their numbers in the US have risen gradually during the past few years.
But the current total of nearly 3,500 Kenyans studying in the US is only about half of what it was in 2005.
The cost of higher education in the US likely played a part in the steep long-term decline of Kenyans studying in the US.
The average annual cost of tuition and fees for foreign undergraduates at four-year public institutions stands at $25,700. Private colleges and universities in the US charge a yearly average of $30,700. Kenya now ranks third among sub-Saharan countries in the number of students attending US colleges or universities.
Nigeria sends about four times as many students to the US than does Kenya. A total of 13,423 Nigerians were studying in the US last year, an increase of nearly six per cent from the 2017-18 academic year.
Ghana came second with 3,661 students in the US last year.
Kenya still outpaces all of its East Africa neighbours. Ethiopia is Kenya’s closest competitor, enrolling 2,061 students in US institutions in 2018- 19.
Rwanda had the next-highest total of 1,292 students — a nearly five per cent increase from the previous year.
Uganda sent 848 students last year, Tanzania 834, Burundi 141 and South Sudan 63. A total of 76 students from Somalia were enrolled in the US last year.
Africans overall account for 40,000 of the 1,095,000 international students in the US. They are vastly eclipsed by Chinese (370,000), Indians (202,000) and South Koreans (52,000).