Student Visas Are Way Down, But the Decline Began Under Obama

The Wall Street Journal reports that student visas were way down last year:

The number of visas issued to foreign students fell markedly last year amid stricter immigration policies, State Department data show….Some of the slide can be attributed to stepped-up competition from schools in other countries and less support for foreign study by some governments. But immigration attorneys and school officials say Trump administration policies are making the U.S. a tougher destination for foreigners and point to stricter scrutiny of those who do apply.

I am, needless to say, ready to believe this, but State Department data (here and here) doesn’t really back it up:

I don’t know what happened in 2016, but that was when the biggest drop occurred—and it happened on President Obama’s watch. The decline continued during President Trump’s first year, but at a lower pace.

Why did the Obama administration reduce student visas by 27 percent in its final year? Or were there simply fewer applicants? The 2016 figures were released after Trump’s inauguration, so all the stories about it were Trump-centric. But the decline itself happened while Obama was still president. What’s the explanation?