U.S. International Education Enrollment Reaches All-time High - Higher Education
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U.S. International Education Enrollment Reaches All-time High

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by Ronald Roach

 

Students in the Brazilian government's Brazil Scientific Mobility program. The program provides scholarships to Brazilian undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields to study at U.S. institutions. (Photo courtesy of the Institute of International Education)

Students in the Brazilian government’s Brazil Scientific Mobility program. The program provides scholarships to Brazilian undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields to study at U.S. institutions. (Photo courtesy of the Institute of International Education)

With the international population at American institutions growing ever more diverse, a record annual 819,644 students from abroad studied at U.S. colleges and universities in the 2012-13 academic year. The new high represents a 7-percent jump over the previous year, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2013 “Open Doors Report on International Exchange.”

In addition, a record annual high of 283,322 Americans, representing a 3-percent increase over the previous year, studied abroad during the 2012-13 academic year, according to the Open Doors Report, which was released Monday.

“In absolute numbers, this is the largest number of international students that the U.S. has ever hosted,” said Dr. Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president of research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education (IIE), noting that much of the new international student growth has come from China and Saudi Arabia.

Students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level, increased their enrollments by 21.4 percent in total to 235,597 students, and the number of Chinese undergraduates jumped by 26 percent over the previous year. In contrast, the U.S. saw a decrease in the number of students from India, one of the leading sources of international students for the U.S. India accounted for 96,754 students in 2012-13, which is down 3.5 percent from 100,270 in 2011-12, according to the report data.

The Open Doors Report’s newly-released figures represent the seventh consecutive year that the New York-based organization is documenting expansion in the total number of international students in U.S. higher education. Over the past three years, the rate of growth of international students in the U.S. has grown steadily. In the past decade, international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities have increased 40 percent, according to the Open Doors Report.

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International students have been “attracted to the excellence and the diversity of our country’s higher education,” Evan M. Ryan, the U.S. State Department assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs, said last week during an IIE briefing for the news media.

“On the flip side, Open Doors [Report] reveals that nearly 300,000 students studied abroad. U.S. student participation in study abroad more than tripled over the past two decades,” Ryan said, adding that “there’s definitely still more room for growth on both sides.”

“International education builds and sustains a more democratic and prosperous world that benefits the American people and the international community,” she continued. “The opportunity to be an international exchange student is an experience that has a lifelong impact.”

The Open Doors Report is published by the IIE, an independent not-for-profit organization with more than 1,200 member institutions. Since 1919, the organization has conducted an annual statistical survey of the international students in the U.S. The IIE has produced the Open Doors Report in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 1972.

IIE officials say students from Middle Eastern and South American nations have been instrumental in increasing the international student population in the U.S. in recent years. State-sponsored initiatives have helped fuel much of the new student growth from those regions. For example, in recent years Saudi Arabia and Brazil have each launched national scholarship programs that have increased the number of their students studying in the U.S.

“We saw a large increase in the numbers of Saudi Arabian students primarily due to the King Abdullah scholarships, a program that has existed since 2005 … [and] Brazil was up about 20 percent, primarily due to the Brazil undergraduate scholarship program,” Bhandari said.

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There was a 30-percent jump in the number of students from Saudi Arabia from 2011-12 to 2012-13 studying at American institutions. Saudi Arabia accounted for 44,566 international students in the U.S. in 2012-13.

Dr. Paul M. Brown, director of International Education at Clark-Atlanta University, told Diverse that the Atlanta-based historically Black institution has, in recent years, experienced a enrollment surge by students from Saudi Arabia, making them the largest bloc of international students on campus. Brown said 40 students from Saudi Arabia currently attend Clark-Atlanta, which is one of the historically Black schools making up the Atlanta University Center higher education institution consortium.

“We’ve seen an influx of Saudi students coming into higher education institutions all across Georgia in the last few years,” Brown said.

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