Number of International College Students Continues to Climb
Students from overseas now make up about 4 percent of all university students in the U.S., which hosts more of the world’s 4.5 million international students than any other country, according to the 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, an annual survey of study abroad trends by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The overall number of international students in the U.S. has grown 72 percent since 2000, according to the report. Students from China, India and South Korea now represent about half of all international students in the U.S., with the number from China and India on the uptick and the numbers from South Korea on the decline.
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Much of the increase in international students in the U.S. during 2013-2014 was fueled by undergraduate students from China, the report’s authors found. The number of Chinese students increased to 31 percent of all international students in the U.S. – the highest concentration the top country of origin has had since IIE began producing the report in 1948. There are five times more Chinese students studying in the U.S. since then, according to the report.
Hongyi Huang, a 19-year-old sophomore at Colgate University, is one of the thousands of Chinese students who have decided to pursue a U.S. education. Huang, from Dalian, says he was drawn to the States because of its more holistic approach to the admissions process – China puts more of an emphasis on its national standardized test – as well as the chance to interact closely with instructors.
“I felt like I had been in China for the past 18 years and I really wanted some kind of new environment,” he says. “I personally love how American colleges select their students.”
Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, the three countries that saw the most growth in international students in the U.S., all have invested in scholarship programs for overseas study. There was a 21 percent increase in the number of students from Saudi Arabia, which has been funding a scholarship program for about 11 years. The country sent about 54,000 students to study in the U.S. last school year – making it the fourth leading place of origin. There are 10 times more Saudi students in the U.S. today than in 2000, according to IIE.
The Middle East and North Africa was the fastest growing region of origin for international students in the U.S., increasing by 20 percent over the prior year. Iran also had a significant jump in the number of students heading to the U.S., sending 10,194 students to the country – up 16.6 percent from the year before.
The uptick may not be too surprising, considering past trends. From 1974 to 1983, Iran was the top country of origin for international students to the U.S., sending more than 50,000 to the country at the peak, says Christine Farrugia, report coauthor.
“Everybody’s grandfather in Iran got their Ph.D. or master’s degree in America,” says Allan E. Goodman, president and CEO of IIE. “We were the most popular place for Iranian students to go traditionally and that memory and that respect for American education has not faded with the revolution and the events that have taken place there.”
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The number of students from India also increased, growing about 6 percent to 102,673 students after a three-year decline, the report found. Rajika Bhandari, report coauthor and deputy vice president of research and evaluation at IIE, attributed the change to trends within India’s economy.
“The Indian currency had become severely devalued against the dollar and many Indian students were hard hit by that,” she says. “Closer to 2013 we saw the rupee stabilize a bit against the dollar.”
Within the U.S., 41 states saw increases in international students, with California, New York and Texas attracting the highest numbers.
International students put their buying power to work along with their brain power. Among all 50 states, international student spending added more than $27 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most students – about 64 percent – paid for their education with personal or family funds.
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Among colleges, New York University became the leading host university for international students, surpassing University of Southern California, which had been the leader for 12 years, according to the report. For the first time, NYU and three other universities enrolled more than 10,000 students. The others included University of Southern California, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign andColumbia University.
Monroe France, assistant vice president for student diversity at NYU, says the school has made a push to enroll more international students, who make up about 20 percent of this year’s freshman class.
“One of the major benefits is that it really, truly shows the beautiful diversity that exists around the world,” he says. “It provides an opportunity for our students to engage with people who are different from themselves and it creates a much more interesting campus community.”