Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Colette M Taylor

Second Advisor

Viviane S Lopuch

Third Advisor

Helen Chen


The problem addressed through this project is the decline in the retention of foreign students in U.S. institutions of higher learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020– 2021 school year, international student enrollment declined by 15%, demonstrating the direct impact of the pandemic on U.S. institutions of higher learning (Svrluga, 2021). Moreover, the financial contribution of foreign students dropped by 27% to $28.4 billion in the same financial year, which was attributed to perceptions among international students that they were unwelcome, in addition to visa processing challenges. The purpose of the study was to examine factors influencing the retention of foreign learners in U.S. higher education institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study aimed to identify the unique challenges international students faced coping with the COVID-19 pandemic while in the United States. The study further examined some key interventions higher education institutions should have implemented to ensure international students’ experiences remained positive and existing challenges were resolved effectively. The study was guided by Spady’s model, Tinto's theory, and the PICO framework (Considine et al., 2017; Nicoletti, 2019). The study was grounded on a systematic review of pertinent literature. The studies’ relevance to the research questions was derived from journals, conference proceedings, electronic databases of U.S. colleges and universities, research reports from research organizations, and other electronic databases such as JSTOR, ProQuest, ScienceDirect, and Emerald. The PRISMA 2009 flow diagram guided the process of selecting studies. Results from quantitative studies were compared based on the methodologies adopted and results found out. Qualitative studies that were included were analyzed thematically.