By Karen Farkas for cleveland.com
Cleveland State University can no longer count on wealthy Saudi Arabia to send hundreds of full-paying students to its campus.
The country's new king, facing steep declines in oil prices, has greatly reduced government-sponsored scholarships to students who want to go to college in the United States.
This fall, CSU has 88 graduate students from Saudi Arabia, compared to 134 in 2015 and 151 in 2014.
The one-year decline translates into a $184,000 loss from in tuition, room and board, at about $40,000 per student per year.
The number of undergraduate students declined from 443 in 2015 to 337 this year.
"We have to expect and have already seen a significant drop of international students coming to us," CSU President Ronald Berkman recently told trustees. "The Middle East has shown the most dramatic drop. The government for all intents and purposes has closed those programs."
Most students are continuing on scholarships awarded in prior years, Berkman said. When asked by a trustee if the number could one day go to zero Berkman said that could eventually occur.
When the King Abdullah Scholarship Program was established in 2005, there were just over 3,000 Saudi students in the United States, according to the International Consultants for Education and Fairs, which monitors international education. Enrollment swelled to just under 60,000 students in 2014.
Saudi Arabia currently sends the fourth-largest number of students to the United States, after students from China, India and South Korea, according to the Institute of International Education.
The scholarship program, which is funded through 2020, includes room, board, tuition and travel and living costs.
But it has become more restrictive, with a higher threshold for academic and language qualifications. CSU has drawn students who required pre-academic language training.
And scholarship students may be sent only to to the world's top 100 universities.
"We can attribute the decline certainly to the scholarship changes and the new leadership," said Cindy Skaruppa, vice president of enrollment services at CSU. "It's not that the Saudi students were dissatisfied with their experiences."
Are other colleges affected?
Many colleges across the country are seeing declines in Saudi Arabian students, Inside Higher Ed reported. The drop has been greater for undergraduate and intensive English programs than for graduate degrees.
Enrollment of students from Saudi Arabia declined from 669 in 2015 to 558 this year, Kent State University officials said.
Kent State had increased the total number of international students on campus from 230 in 2008 to 3,000 in 2015.
Saudi students now comprise 19 percent of total international student enrollment.
What is CSU doing?
About 9 percent of CSU's students now are from outside the country, compared to about 11 percent in recent years.
CSU has about 50 Saudi students who pay their own costs, without help from the Saudi government, Skaruppa said.
The university also has established partnerships with universities in China and has begun recruiting students from other countries, including Oman and Kuwait.
It is also promoting its English as a Second Language program overseas.
The university is investigating offering scholarships to international students, she said. And faculty and administrators with international ties are being asked to recruit when they are overseas.
What about enrollment from other countries?
Japan stands as historical precedent showing international students can stop coming to the United States, Inside Higher Ed reported. In 1995, Japan sent 45,531 students to study in the US. In 2015, just 19,064 Japanese students were in the United States, according to the Institute of International Education.
The number of international students has risen sharply in the last 20 years, mainly due to China, Insider Higher Ed said. In 1996 there were 39,613 Chinese students studying here. In 2015 there were 304,040.
But university officials are concerned that number may drop because China has more fully developed its own universities, Berkman told trustees.
"We, too, are concerned about China, but haven't seen a shift in application or enrollment patterns," said Richard Bischoff, vice president for enrollment at Case Western Reserve University.
CSU and other universities are also trying to stem a potential decline of students from India, which is issuing fewer student visas, Skaruppa said.
CSU currently has 505 students from India in graduate programs this fall, compared to 706 in 2015, she said.