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International students at Penn

International Study Up

November 11, 2013

The number of international students at U.S. universities increased 7.2 percent in 2012-13 to an all-time high of 819,644, according to the latest “Open Doors” survey of international enrollments and American study abroad participation, conducted annually by the Institute of International Education. The number of Americans studying abroad grew to 283,332 in 2011-12, representing a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year.

The overall increase in international student enrollments was fueled by continuing growth in the number of students from the first and fourth-largest sending countries, respectively, China (up 21.4 percent) and Saudi Arabia (up 30.5 percent) – increases that more than made up for slight declines from the second and third-largest sending countries, India (down 3.5 percent) and South Korea (down 2.3 percent).

Click here to view an interactive graphic on the 2012-13 International Enrollments in the U.S.

American study abroad participation increased both in some of the traditionally popular destinations, such as the United Kingdom, the number one destination country (up 4.5 percent), as well as in less traditional destinations such as Latin America and the Caribbean (up 11.7 percent regionwide). Study in China, the fifth-most popular destination, increased 2 percent.

The number of American students studying abroad has more than tripled over the past 20 years from a base of about 71,000 in 1991-2. Even so, just 9.4 percent of all American undergraduates study abroad at some point during their degree program and nearly 60 percent of students who do go abroad go for just for a summer or on other short-term programs of eight weeks or less.

Delving into the Data: International Students

Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s deputy vice president for research and evaluation, noted that the growth in international students is particularly striking in that it is of an across-the-board nature: the top 10 states that host international students all saw increases, as did all 20 of the top institutions hosting international students (see interactive map).

Top 25 Countries of Origin for International Students in the U.S. in 2012-13

Country

Number of Students

Percent Change from 2011-12

1. China

235,597

21.4

2. India

96,754

-3.5

3. South Korea

70,627

-2.3

4. Saudi Arabia

44,566

30.5

5. Canada

27,357

2

6. Taiwan

21,867

-5.9

7. Japan

19,568

-2

8. Vietnam

16,098

3.4

9. Mexico

14,199

2.2

10. Turkey

11,278

-5.8

11. Brazil

10,868

20.4

12. Germany

9,819

5

13. United Kingdom

9,467

3.1

14. Nepal

8,920

-7.3

15. Iran

8,744

25.2

16. France

8,297

0.8

17. Hong Kong

8,026

-0.1

18. Indonesia

7,670

7.6

19. Nigeria

7,316

4.1

20. Thailand

7,314

-4.1

21. Malaysia

6,791

0.7

22. Colombia

6,543

3.9

23. Venezuela

6,158

-2

24. Kuwait

5,115

37.4

25. Spain

5,033

2.2

     Source: Institute of International Education

The numbers of Chinese and Saudi Arabian students in the U.S. have both been increasing by double-digit percentages for years now, with much of the growth happening at the undergraduate level. The number of Chinese undergraduates increased by 25.9 percent in 2012-13, 30.8 percent the year before, and 43 percent the year before that. The total number of students from China at all degree levels is now 235,597, and they make up 28.7 percent of all international students in the U.S. “This is the largest concentration of students from any one place of origin that the U.S. has ever seen,” Bhandari said.

Ten Years of Chinese and Saudi Arabian Students in the U.S.

Year

Number of Students from China

Percent Change  from Previous Year

Number of Students from Saudi Arabia

Percent Change from Previous Year

2012-13

235,597

21.4

44,566

30.5

2011-12

194,029

23.1

34,139

50.4

2010-11

157,558

23.5

22,704

43.6

2009-10

127,628

29.9

15,810

24.9

2008-9

98,235

21.1

12,661

28.2

2007-8

81,127

19.8

9,873

25.2

2006-7

67,723

8.2

7,886

128.7

2005-6

62,582

0.1

3,448

13.6

2004-5

62,523

1.2

3,035

-13.8

2003-4

61,765

-4.6

3,521

-15.7

       Source: Institute of International Education

The growth in students from Saudi Arabia is largely attributable to a generous government scholarship program that started in 2005. Government scholarship programs likewise fueled the healthy gains in the number of students from Brazil (up 20.4 percent) and Kuwait (up 37.4 percent). The growth of the government scholarship programs, combined with the rapid rate of increase in Chinese undergraduate students in recent years, are all factors in explaining why international undergraduates outnumber foreign graduate students in the U.S. for the second year in a row after more than a decade in which the opposite was the case.

Another notable increase involves the number of students from Iran, which increased 25.2 percent, albeit from a relatively small base. Students from Iran, like China, are primarily self-funded as opposed to on sponsored programs. IIE found that personal or family resources were the primary source of funding for 63.6 percent of all international students in the U.S. Based on its analysis of Open Doors data, NAFSA: Association of International Educators estimates that in 2012-13 international students and their families contributed $24 billion to the American economy in tuition payments and living expenditures.

 

 

Notably, the number of students from the second-largest sending country, India, declined by 3.5 percent in 2012-13 after an identical drop the year before. And a “snapshot survey” of fall 2013 enrollment – a separate, far less comprehensive survey that IIE also publishes in conjunction with seven other higher education associations -- found that Indian enrollments continued to decline this fall, by 10 percent. 

This presents a contrast to yet a third dataset, this one from the Council of Graduate Schools, which found a 40 percent surge in new graduate enrollments from India this fall. Bhandari noted that the Open Doors and snapshot survey data include both undergraduate and graduate students – not just graduate enrollment as in the case of the CGS data – and said that undergraduates are more likely to be sensitive to the effects of the declining value of the rupee than graduate students, many of whom are financed by their institution.

Jeff Allum, director of research and policy analysis at CGS, said it was difficult to reconcile the large surge in students from India that CGS saw at the graduate level with the overall declines recorded in the snapshot survey (on which CGS collaborated). "My only explanation is we have a slightly different sample pool and a different questionnaire," he said. 

"What I can say is I’m very confident in the numbers we provided," Allum said. Over three separate surveys, CGS found growth in interest from Indian students at every step in the graduate application process. Total applications to U.S. graduate schools from Indian students increased 22 percent this fall, offers of admission increased by 30 percent and, again, new enrollments rose by 40 percent.

The India numbers aside, indications from both Open Doors and the snapshot survey suggest that the general upward trend in international enrollments will continue in the near future. Open Doors found that first-time international enrollments increased 9.8 percent in 2012-13, compared to the overall growth rate of 7.2 percent. And the snapshot survey – which, while far less comprehensive and representing 380 universities rather than the approximately 3,000 included in Open Doors — nonetheless gives a preliminary peak as to what the picture looks like this academic year. And the picture generally looks good: 72 percent of colleges responding said they saw an increase in international students this fall. The average rate of increase was 13 percent, with more growth occurring at the undergraduate level. Universities reported growth from China (up 7 percent), Iraq (up 55 percent), Saudi Arabia (up 25 percent), Brazil (up 17 percent) and Vietnam (up 14 percent).

Many of the respondents to the snapshot survey said that they have added additional services and English as a Second Language courses to support and integrate the growing numbers of Chinese students. Even so, many universities said they continue to struggle to provide adequate English language training to Chinese students and to diversify their international student body.

Americans Studying Abroad

The 3.4 percent growth in American study abroad participation in 2011-12 represented a stronger rate of growth than in the previous year, when participation rose by just 1.3 percent. Many of the traditional European destinations recorded increases – with the exceptions of Italy, Greece and Austria -- while there were big percentage gains in Latin American countries in particular: Costa Rica (up 9.3 percent), Argentina (up 3.8 percent), Brazil (up 16.5 percent), Ecuador (up 15 percent), and Peru (up 9.5 percent). The number of students going to Mexico continues to slide due to safety concerns, while the numbers to Japan rebounded after a steep fall-off last year following the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Leading Destinations for Americans Studying Abroad in 2011-12

Country

Number of Students

Percent Change from 2010-11

1. United Kingdom

34,660

4.5

2. Italy

29,645

-2.4

3. Spain

26,480

2

4. France

17,168

0.9

5. China

14,887

2

6. Germany

9,370

3.9

7. Australia

9,324

-4.2

8. Costa Rica

7,900

9.3

9. Ireland

7,640

9

10. Japan

5,283

27.8

11. Argentina

4,763

3.8

12. India

4,593

5.7

13. South Africa

4,540

4.7

14. Brazil

4,060

16.5

15. Mexico

3,815

-8.4

16. Ecuador

3,572

15

17. Czech Republic

3,477

5.7

18. Israel

3,189

-7.3

19. Chile

3,064

-6.6

20.New Zealand

2,969

2.4

21. Denmark

2,876

16.1

22. Greece

2,701

-21.2

23. South Korea

2,695

8.4

24. Peru

2,680

9.5

25. Austria

2,657

-2.9

    Source: Institute of International Education

The profile of Americans who study abroad – which skews white and female – remained largely unchanged from the year prior, but there were some striking changes in some fields of study. The number of engineering students who study abroad increased by 16.3 percent, for example, and the number for physical and life sciences grew 12.8 percent. These are marked increases in fields that historically send fewer students abroad than the social science and humanities disciplines.  

American Study Abroad Participation by Field of Study, 2011-12

Field of Study

Number of Students

Percent of Total Study Abroad Enrollment

Percent Change from 2010-11

Social Sciences

63,427

22.4

1.1

Business

58,091

20.5

3.4

Humanities

30,667

10.8

-1

Physical or Life Sciences

24,413

8.6

12.8

Fine or Applied Arts

22,138

7.8

-1.5

Health Sciences

16,138

5.7

11.1

Foreign Languages

14,890

5.3

-3

Education

11,539

4.1

0.3

Engineering

11,149

3.9

16.3

Math or Computer Science

4,861

1.7

-1.4

Agriculture

3,360

1.2

-5.7

Other Fields of Study

14,294

5

8.7

Undeclared

8,365

3

13.1

     Source: Institute of International Education

Again, the majority of students going abroad participate in short-term programs. Just 35.4 percent of students studied abroad for a semester or two quarters and another 3.3 percent went overseas for a whole academic or calendar year. 

 

 

New York University led the way in terms of total study abroad participation and also topped the list in regards to the number of students it sends on long-term and mid-length programs. The universities and colleges with the highest undergraduate participation rates in study abroad, by institutional type, were as follows: for doctoral universities, Boston College, American University, and the Universities of San Diego, Denver and Notre Dame; for master’s-level universities, Arcadia, Elon, Hamline and Lee Universities and the University of Dallas; and for baccalaureate colleges, Soka University of America, Webber International University, Centre College, Taylor University and Goucher College.

 

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