Development & Aid, Education, Headlines, North America

EDUCATION: Foreign Students Flock Back to U.S

Eli Clifton

WASHINGTON, Nov 16 2009 (IPS) - The number of international students attending colleges and universities in the United States has reached an all-time high of 671,616, largely bolstered by an increasing number of undergraduate students from China, while U.S. students are also studying abroad in higher numbers.

The 2008/2009 academic year marked the largest increase – eight percent – in the number of international students attending U.S. colleges and universities since the 1980/1981 academic year, according to a report released Monday by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

While the ranks of international students in the U.S. are increasing, so to are the numbers of U.S. students choosing to study abroad.

U.S. students choosing to study abroad increased by 8.5 percent to 262,416 in the 2007/08 academic year with a noticeable increase in students choosing to go to “less traditional” locales, particularly in the developing world.

Destinations experiencing the biggest increase in U.S. students studying abroad include China, Ireland, Austria and India, with increases of about 20 percent each, and Costa Rica, Japan, Argentina and South Africa, up nearly15 percent each.

“Open Doors 2009: International Students in the United States” also finds that the number of new international students – those enrolling for the first time at a U.S. college or university – increased by 16 percent, which followed consecutive increases of 10 percent in the past two years.

“I am delighted to see the large increase in the number of international students who are choosing to study in the United States,” said Judith A. McHale, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

“The all-time high number of international students who studied here in the 2008/09 academic year testifies to the quality and diversity for which American higher education is known around the world. The Department of State actively promotes the benefits of an American education,” she said.

India remains the top place of origin – increasing by nine percent to 103,260 – for international students attending U.S. colleges and universities, but China – the second biggest place of origin – increased the number of its students studying in the U.S. by 21 percent for a total of 98,510.

Top senders of students include: South Korea in third place, with an increase of nine percent to 75,065; Canada in fourth place and the only non-Asian country in the top five, rising two percent to 29,697; Japan in fifth place and in its fourth year of decline, decreasing by 14 percent to 29,264; and Taiwan, remaining in sixth place with a three percent decline.

Mexico, the seventh largest sender of students, remained flat with 14,850.

Other senders of students showing notable increases include Turkey in eighth place, increasing by 10 percent to 13,263; Vietnam, moving up to ninth place from 20th place only two years ago, increasing by 46 percent to 12,823; Saudi Arabia in 10th place, increasing 28 percent to 12,661; Nepal in 11th place, increasing by 30 percent to 11,581; Germany in 12th place, up nine percent to 9,679; and Brazil in 13th place, up 16 percent to 8,767.

According to the IIE report, countries showing declines include 14th place Thailand and 17th place Indonesia, with declines of three percent and 2.4 percent, respectively; and Britain in 15th place, Hong Kong in 16th place, France in 18th place, and Colombia in 19th place. All exhibited declines of less than five percent.

The Open Doors report finds that international students in the U.S. are concentrated in a handful of urban areas.

California hosted the largest number of international students with 93,124, up 10 percent; followed by New York with 74,934, up seven percent; and Texas with 58,188, up 12 percent.

New York City is the largest urban destination for international students – a position it has held in previous years – with 59,322 enrolled in schools within the metropolitan area, an increase of eight percent, and Los Angeles holds the second place spot with 42,897 students, an increase of 11 percent.

Individual universities with the largest international student bodies include the University of Southern California with 7,482; New York University with 6,761; Columbia University with 6,685; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with 6,570 and Purdue University with 6,136.

The report found that 65 percent of international students receive the majority of their funds from personal and family sources and 70 percent of international students’ primary source of funds comes from outside of the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contribute 17.8 billion dollars to the U.S. economy.

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