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Int’l Students Increase in U.S., New Enrollments Decline

Top 10 origin international students

Top 10 origins for international students

(24 November 2017) The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased in the 2016-17 academic year, totaling more than 1 million students from overseas for the second year in a row. But the number of new students enrolling at U.S. institutions declined in the fall of 2016, the first such decline in 12 years.

International Institute of Education compiles annual statistics on international exchanges of students and scholars, published each year in its Open Doors reports. The project is funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For the 2016-17 academic year, beginning in the fall of 2016, total international students at U.S. colleges and universities climbed by 3.4 percent to 1.08 million. That represents the 11th straight year of total enrollment increases. Students from abroad also account for about 5 percent of the more than 20 million students at U.S. institutions of higher learning.

China and India contribute the most international students on U.S. campuses, making up about half of all students from overseas. The number of South Korean students ranked in third place, while the students from Saudi Arabia declined by 14 percent, dropping that country’s contribution to fourth place. The growth rate in students from India was the highest of any country, particularly for graduate students and those in optional practical training programs, temporary employment related to major areas of study.

The Open Doors report shows the number of new enrollments among international students declined by some 10,000 to about 291,000 in 2016-17, a decline of about 3 percent from the previous year. The largest new-enrollment declines were in students from Saudi Arabia and Brazil, particularly in non-degree studies. The report attributes the decreases to the culmination of optional practical training programs, in which many of these students were enrolled, thus ending their studies in the U.S.

The report estimates international students added some $39 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, up from $35 billion in 2015. California hosted the most international students, nearly 157,000 in 2016-17, followed by New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois. New York City and vicinity ranked first in metropolitan areas with international students, followed by the Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago regions.

The Open Doors document also reports on American students going overseas for study. In 2015-16, that number increased to more than 325,000, a gain of 3.8 percent over the previous year. Europe remains the leading destination for American students abroad, particularly the U.K., Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and China. Despite these recent increases, says IIE, only about 10 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. will study overseas before they graduate.

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