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U.S.: 2010 Saw Record Number of International Students

Amanda Wilson

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 2011 (IPS) - For the fifth consecutive year, the number of international students studying in the U.S. increased, hitting an all-time record high, according to a report released Monday by the Institute of International Education (IIE) at the start of International Education Week.

The number of international students studying in the U.S. has been steadily climbing since experiencing a decline in the years after Sep. 11, 2001. With total U.S. enrollment estimated to be about two million, international students comprise less than four percent of total enrollment, according to the report.

But while more international students studied in the U.S. last year than during any time in the nation’s history – a total of 723,277 foreign students in the 2010-2011 school year – less than two percent of U.S. college and university students studied abroad during the same period, according to the IIE report.

Speaking in a videotaped message on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged U.S. students to apply for passports and “not just think globally but get out there and study globally as well”.

The IIE report, called the “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange”, is based on a survey of 3,000 U.S. institutes of higher education and published annually with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

China, India top the list

China was the top sending country for the second year in a row, with 157,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. last school year. China surpassed India as the top sending country in 2008-2009. India maintained 14 percent of “all international students in U.S. higher education, with tens of thousands more students from India in U.S. higher education than in any other host country.”

India and South Korea were the second and third top sending countries, together with China comprising “nearly half (46 percent) of the total international enrollments in U.S. higher education,” according to the report.

Canada, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Japan were respectively the next top sending countries, with enrolling students from Saudi Arabia increasing by 44 percent. The report attributes this to a “large Saudi government scholarship program that has been ramping up over the past few years”.

Japan and Kenya saw double-digit percentage declines in the number of students from those countries enrolling in U.S. higher educational institutes.

The report also highlighted U.S. Department of Commerce statistics showing international students contribute more than 21 billion dollars to local economies. Sixty-three percent of international students “receive the majority of their funds from personal and family sources”, according to the report.

California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois held their places as the top five destination states for international students, although the report shows that Ohio and Pennsylvania moved up on the list of top destinations.

The University of Southern California was the leading host institution for the tenth year in a row, hosting more than 8,000 international students last academic year, followed closely behind by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, New York University and Purdue, respectively.

The top fields of study for international students in the U.S. last year were business and management and engineering, which together attracted 40 percent of all international students.

U.S. students abroad

While the total number of U.S. students studying abroad has increased by 88 percent in the last 10 years, they still comprise just two percent of U.S. college students, a statistic Assistant Secretary of State Ann Stock said should be higher.

“We can and must do better in today’s global economy,” Stock said. She said students who study abroad come back more “globally aware and globally competent”.

Stock pointed to some of the federal programmes set up to facilitate U.S. citizens study abroad, including The Fulbright Scholar Program, the Humphry Fellowship Program, The Gilman International Scholarship, and Critical Language Scholarships.

The top four destinations for U.S. students studying abroad were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and France. While China replaced Mexico as the fifth most popular destination for U.S. students studying abroad, the report points to a continuing exchange imbalance in the relatively small number of U.S. students studying in Asia compared to the number of Asian students studying in the U.S.

Still, the report points to “a surge in interest in study in China in the past decade, with nearly 14,000 students studying in China in 2009-2010 compared to fewer than 3,000” 10 years ago. The report also points to double-digit increases in the number of U.S. students studying abroad in India, Israel, Brazil and New Zealand.

About 42,000 students pursued their entire degrees abroad, about 16,000 of those in the United Kingdom.

Some imbalances characterise the demographics of U.S. students studying abroad. Two-thirds of those students were women, although the number of males studying abroad is growing. The report also shows that while racial and ethnic minorities comprise one-third of college and university students in the U.S., only one-fifth of those who study abroad from the U.S. come from minority groups.

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