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Report shows growth in international enrollments, study abroad

International Exchange Increasing
November 12, 2012

The number of international students in the United States increased by 5.7 percent in 2011-12, growing to a record high of 764,495, according to this year’s “Open Doors” data, published annually by the Institute of International Education. For the first time since 2000-01, the number of international undergraduates exceeds the number of foreign graduate students.

International Students in the U.S. by Academic Level in 2011-12

Undergraduate

Graduate

Non-Degree

Optional Practical Training

Total

309,342

300,430

69,566

85,157

764,495

American colleges have stepped up their recruitment of international undergraduate students in recent years. They've been motivated both by financial considerations -- foreign undergraduates typically pay their own way and, for public institutions, pay out-of-state tuition rates -- and by the educational opportunities created by an internationally diverse student population.

“The increase of undergraduates will have a very profound effect on the American classroom,” said Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president at IIE. “Graduate students tend to stay in their lab, do their work, whereas [international] undergraduates, they’re going to be lab-mates with American students, they’re going to be dorm-mates, and they’re going to be in classrooms and in dorms late at night sharing ideas."

Blumenthal said she hopes that the growth in international undergraduates will also help to speed the expansion of study abroad among American students, which grew by a modest 1.3 percent in 2010-11, to 273,996. (Study abroad numbers lag one year behind international student enrollment numbers in Open Doors.)

International Students in the U.S.

International student enrollment has been climbing in the U.S. for the last six years, following post-Sept. 11 declines.

In 2011-12, China remained the leading country of origin for international students in the U.S. The number of Chinese students increased 23.1 percent over the previous year. The growth was especially explosive at the undergraduate level (30.8 percent), though it did represent a slow-down from growth at the undergraduate level in the previous year (43 percent).

Leading Countries of Origin for International Students in the U.S. in 2011-12

Country of Origin

Number of Students

Percent Change from 2010-11

China

194,029

23.1%

India

100,270

-3.5

South Korea

72,295

-1.4

Saudi Arabia

34,139

50.4

Canada

26,821

-2.6

Taiwan

23,250

-6.3

Japan

19,966

-6.2

Vietnam

15,572

4.6

Mexico

13,893

1.3

Turkey

11,973

-1.7

Meanwhile, the numbers of students from the second- and third-largest sending nations, India and South Korea, dipped by 3.5 and 1.4 percent, respectively.

The number of Saudi students – the fourth-largest group -- grew by 50.4 percent, the growth attributable to a large-scale government scholarship program. Saudi students make up the largest single group of students in non-degree programs, which would include intensive English-language programs.

Overall, the number of students from the Middle East grew by 33.2 percent. Aside from Saudi Arabia, there were particularly big gains in the numbers of students from Iran (24.1 percent), Iraq (31.3 percent), Kuwait (24.1 percent), Oman (71.9 percent), and Qatar (36.7 percent). (Granted, except for in the cases of Iran and Kuwait, these increases were from small bases, of fewer than 1,000 students each.) Unsurprisingly, given the conflict there, the number of students from Syria decreased, from 526 to 458.

The majority of international students – 63.6 percent – said that personal and family resources were their primary source of funding. Another 21.5 percent said their top source of funding was a U.S. university, 5.8 percent a foreign government or university, and 5.3 percent an employer.

An analysis conducted by NAFSA: Association of International Educators – based on Open Doors data and cost estimates for tuition and living expenses – finds that international students contributed an estimated $21.81 billion to the U.S. economy in 2011-12.

American Students Abroad

International education leaders see significant room for improvement in the study abroad numbers. “We have to change the paradigm of university education to make this the normal thing for students to do,” said Allan E. Goodman, IIE’s president and CEO. “Or else we’re going to have a decade of 1 percent growth, which is not enough."

IIE estimates that about 14 percent of Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees last year studied abroad at some point in their undergraduate experience.

There are few surprises in the study abroad data, which show that while more than half of all Americans who study abroad go to European countries, there is growth in the numbers studying in some less traditional destinations, including #5 China (up 4.9 percent), #8 Costa Rica (up 15.5 percent), #11 India (up 11.9 percent), #15 Brazil (up 12.5 percent), and #16 Israel (up 9.4 percent). The numbers of students studying abroad dropped sharply in #13 Mexico (down 41.8 percent) – where continuing concerns about drug-related violence have led many universities to cancel their programs – and #14 Japan (down 33 percent), which continues to suffer the aftershocks of the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Top 20 Destinations for U.S. Study Abroad Students in 2010-11

Country

Number

Percent of Study Abroad Total

Percent Change from 2009-10

United Kingdom

33,182

12.1%

1.5%

Italy

30,361

11.1

8.7

Spain

25,965

9.5

2.2

France

17,019

6.2

-0.8

China

14,596

5.3

4.9

Australia

9,736

3.6

-2.3

Germany

9,018

3.3

5.5

Costa Rica

7,230

2.6

15.5

Ireland

7,007

2.6

3.1

Argentina

4,589

1.7

-5.1

India

4,345

1.6

11.9

South Africa

4,337

1.6

0.6

Mexico

4,167

1.5

-41.8

Japan

4,134

1.5

-33

Brazil

3,485

1.3

12.5

Israel

3,441

1.3

9.4

Greece

3,428

1.3

-7.4

Czech Republic

3,291

1.2

-3.5

Chile

3,280

1.2

5.3

Ecuador

3,107

1.1

5

In other trends in study abroad, the proportion of students participating in programs of eight weeks or less continued to increase. Students on short-term programs now make up 58.1 percent of all Americans abroad. And low participation rates among minorities persist: 77.8 percent of study abroad participants were white in 2010-11, down slightly from 78.7 percent the year before. The gender breakdown also remains skewed: 64.4 percent of those who studied abroad were women.

There are 33 colleges – most of them small baccalaureate institutions -- that send 70 percent or more of their students abroad. Eleven doctoral-granting universities exceed the 50 percent mark, as do 12 master’s-level colleges. Blumenthal pointed to these institutions as proof that increasing study abroad enrollment dramatically is possible.

“It can be done. And it needs to be done,” she said.

Colleges with the Highest Undergraduate Participation Rates in Study Abroad in 2010-11, By Sector

Doctoral-Granting

Master’s-Level

Baccalaureate

University of San Diego

Arcadia University

Centre College

Pepperdine University

Elon University

Taylor University

Wake Forest University

Lee University

Austin College

Yeshiva University

University of Dallas

Wofford College

American University

Loyola University Maryland

St. Olaf College

University of Denver

University of Redlands

Goucher College

Yale University

University of Dubuque

Colorado College

Dartmouth College

Saint Mary’s College of California

DePauw University

University of Notre Dame

Chatham University

Luther College

Duke University

Whitworth University

Kalamazoo College

“I worry more than ever about the next generation of Americans, how much their lives are going to be affected by things that happen in other countries,” said Goodman. “You can’t appreciate that if you don’t have a passport, if you haven’t studied abroad, if you haven’t had an experience outside your own culture. In this way America really has to catch up with what’s happening in international education.”

               

 

 

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