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International Enrollments Increase

Annual Open Doors report finds 10 percent increase in international students in the U.S. and 5 percent increase in the number of Americans studying abroad.

November 16, 2015
 

Nearly a million international students are studying at colleges across the U.S.

The newest data from the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors survey shows a 10 percent increase in international students from 2013-14 to 2014-15 -- the highest annual rate of growth at any point over the last 35 years.

American participation in study abroad also grew by 5.2 percent from 2012-13 to 2013-14, when 304,467 students studied abroad for academic credit. IIE is spearheading a national campaign to double the number of students studying abroad and to increase the diversity of those students.

International Students in the U.S.

Of particular note is a big jump in Indian student enrollments.

“While students from China still far outnumber those from any other country, the real story this year is about the growth of students from India,” said Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s deputy vice president for research and evaluation. “What we’ve found is that Indian students coming to the U.S. increased by almost 30 percent over the prior year to reach a record high of almost 133,000 students in the U.S."

The majority of students from India (64 percent) study at the master’s and Ph.D. levels. The United States’ gain in students from India has come at a time when the United Kingdom has experienced declines.

“We know that Indian students have always been very attracted to the availability of excellent science and research facilities on U.S. campuses and also within U.S. industry, which Indian students really view as being a leader in innovation, research and development as compared to any other destination in the world,” said Bhandari, who also cited the stabilization of the Indian rupee as a likely reason behind the increase.

“Students are finally beginning to recover from the steep devaluation of the rupee against the dollar some years ago. While the rupee still remains weak, the fluctuation has stabilized to some extent, therefore allowing more students to afford a U.S. education.”

India is the second-largest country of origin for international students in the U.S. The number of students from the No. 1 country of origin, China, continued to grow -- albeit at a slower rate than in recent years, by 10.8 percent.

Other major sending countries with strong growth include Saudi Arabia (up 11.2 percent) and Brazil (up 78.2 percent). Both countries have generous government scholarship programs funding study abroad, though the future of Brazil’s Science Without Borders program is uncertain after the government, facing a budget crisis, announced an indefinite freeze on new awards in September. The scholarship program continues to support thousands of students who are currently abroad. "The budget for 2016 is under construction by the Brazilian Congress and until we have it we cannot indicate the exact moment that awards will be resumed," Adalberto Luis Val, the director of international relations for CAPES, a Ministry of Education entity that administers the scholarships, said via email.

Latin America and the Caribbean was the fastest-growing region of origin for international students in the U.S. in 2014-15, increasing by 19 percent over the year before. The number of students from Mexico increased by 15.4 percent. The U.S. and Mexican governments have several initiatives in place to try to increase academic exchange between the two nations.

Other countries of origin with double-digit growth include Vietnam (up 12.9 percent), Iran (up 11.2 percent), Nigeria (up 19.9 percent), Kuwait (up 24 percent), Venezuela (up 12.4 percent) and Spain (up 14.8 percent).

There were declines in the number of students from South Korea (down 6.4 percent), Canada (down 3.8 percent), Taiwan (down 1.3 percent), Japan (down 1.4 percent), Turkey (down 0.9 percent), Hong Kong (down 1.1 percent) and Thailand (down 1.7 percent).

Top Places of Origin for International Students in the U.S.

  2013-14 2014-15 Percent Change
World Total 886,052 974,926 10%
1. China 274,439 304,040 10.8
2. India 102,673 132,888 29.4
3. South Korea 68,047 63,710 -6.4
4. Saudi Arabia 53,919 59,945 11.2
5. Canada 28,304 27,240 -3.8
6. Brazil 13,286 23,675 78.2
7. Taiwan 21,266 20,993 -1.3
8. Japan 19,334 19,064 -1.4
9. Vietnam 16,579 18,722 12.9
10. Mexico 14,779 17,052 15.4
11. Iran 10,194 11,338 11.2
12. United Kingdom 10,191 10,743 5.4
13. Turkey 10,821 10,724 -0.9
14. Germany 10,160 10,193 0.3
15. Nigeria 7,921 9,494 19.9
16. Kuwait 7,288 9,034 24
17. France 8,302 8,743 5.3
18. Indonesia 7,920 8,188 3.4
19. Nepal 8,155 8,158 0
20. Hong Kong 8,104 8,012 -1.1
21. Venezuela 7,022 7,890 12.4
22. Malaysia 6,822 7,231 6
23. Thailand 7,341 7,217 -1.7
24. Colombia 7,083 7,169 1.2
25. Spain 5,350 6,143 14.8

A total of eight American universities enrolled 10,000 or more international students in 2014-15, up from just four the year before. Those universities are, in descending order of enrollment, New York University, the University of Southern California, Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northeastern University, Purdue University and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Nationally, 40.9 percent of international students are undergraduates; 37.2 percent study at the graduate level. Another 9.6 percent study in nondegree programs (including intensive English programs) and the remaining 12.3 percent are participating in a postgraduation work authorization period known as optional practical training.

U.S. Study Abroad

The 5.2 percent increase in study abroad participation by U.S. students from 2012-13 to 2013-14 represented a faster annual rate of growth than at any point over the prior five years.

The top destination countries for U.S. students remained the same from last year's data to this year's -- the United Kingdom, followed by Italy, Spain, France and China. Slightly more than half of students studying abroad go to Europe (53.3 percent), a figure that was stable from 2012-13 to 2013-14.

All 25 of the top destinations for American study abroad students hosted an increased number of students in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13 except for China (down 4.5 percent), South Africa (down 6.9 percent) and Argentina (down 5.5 percent). Study abroad to Mexico is beginning to recover (up 19.2 percent) after many colleges closed or suspended programs there due to concerns about drug-related violence.

Number of American Study Abroad Students by Destination Country

  2012-13 2013-14 Percent Change
World Total 289,408 304,467 5.2%
1. United Kingdom 36,210 38,250 5.6
2. Italy 29,848 31,166 4.4
3. Spain 26,281 26,949 2.5
4. France 17,210 17,597 2.2
5. China 14,413 13,763 -4.5
6. Germany 9,544 10,377 8.7
7. Ireland 8,084 8,823 9.1
8. Costa Rica 8,497 8,578 1
9. Australia 8,320 8,369 0.6
10. Japan 5,758 5,978 3.8
11. South Africa 5,337 4,968 -6.9
12. India 4,377 4,583 4.7
13. Mexico 3,730 4,445 19.2
14. Argentina 4,549 4,301 -5.5
15. Brazil 4,223 4,226 0.1
16. Ecuador 3,438 3,699 7.6
17. Czech Republic 3,552 3,572 0.6
18. Denmark 3,302 3,545 7.4
19. Peru 2,956 3,396 14.9
20. Chile 2,879 3,333 15.8
21. South Korea 3,042 3,219 5.8
22. Greece 2,394 3,066 28.1
23. New Zealand 2,793 3,021 8.2
24. Israel 2,798 2,876 2.8
25. Austria 2,673 2,744 2.7

The trend toward studying abroad for shorter durations continued. In 2013-14, 62.1 percent of students who studied abroad did so in programs of eight weeks or fewer. Another 34.9 percent studied in programs lasting a semester or one to two quarters, and 3 percent studied abroad for an academic or calendar year.

In terms of who’s studying abroad, participation, which has historically skewed white and female, is, slowly growing more racially diverse. The proportion of nonwhite students studying abroad in 2013-14 was 25.7 percent, compared to 23.7 percent the year prior. The gender split (65.3 percent women, 34.7 percent men) remained constant.

Proportional Participation in U.S. Study Abroad, by Race/Ethnicity

  2003-4 2012-13 2013-14
Percent White 83.7 76.3 74.3
Percent Hispanic or Latino(a) 5 7.6 8.3
Percent Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 6.1 7.3 7.7
Percent Black or African-American 3.4 5.3 5.6
Percent Multiracial 1.3 3 3.6
Percent American Indian or Alaska Native 0.5 0.5 0.5

The top five fields of study for study abroad students in 2013-14 were science, technology, engineering and mathematics (students in these fields accounted for 22.6 percent of study abroad participants), business (19.6 percent), social sciences (18.7 percent), foreign language and international studies (7.8 percent), and fine or applied arts (7 percent).

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