Press Release

New Survey Suggests Continued Growth in International Student Enrollments at U.S. Colleges and Universities

Fall 2007: Joint Survey on International Student Enrollments in the US

Judith Irwin, American Association of Community Colleges
(202) 728-0200 x233

Susan Chilcott, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
(202) 293-7070

Tim McDonough, American Council on Education
(202) 939-9365

Barry Toiv, Association of American Universities
(202) 408-7500

Stuart Heiser, Council of Graduate Schools
(202) 223-3791

Ursula Oaks, NAFSA: Association of International Educators
(202) 495-2553

Paul Hassen, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges
(202) 478-6073


New Survey Suggests Continued Growth in
International Student Enrollments at U.S. Colleges and Universities

WASHINGTON D.C., November 12, 2007 -- According to about 700 U.S. campuses responding to a joint survey conducted by eight leading higher education associations, new enrollments of international students increased this fall at more than half (55% or 379) of responding member campuses. Only 19% (134) of the responding institutions experienced declines in newly enrolled international students, and 26% (179) report that new enrollments stayed about the same as last year. Regarding overall international student enrollments, the survey indicates that 57% of responding institutions reported that they experienced an increase in overall international student enrollments for Fall 2007, while 19% reported a decline, and 24% reported level enrollments.

These online survey findings, while not comprehensive, build on last year's survey results which suggested the beginnings of a turnaround in international student enrollments, and indicate that the declines from previous years have worked their way through the system and that overall enrollments are growing. The reported increases in new enrollments over the past two years seem to further support this trend. However, not all institutions have seen strong increases in new or total enrollments experienced by others, and numbers from certain countries continue to be problematic.

Among responding institutions with the largest foreign enrollments - 93 U.S. campuses that each host more than 1,000 international students - over three-quarters (79%) of the respondents reported increases in new enrollments, while only 9% reported declines, according to the survey, building on last year's survey findings, where 73% reported increases.

Among all survey respondents, responses varied depending on institutional type. Among responding two-year colleges, 55% reported increases in total international student enrollments, while 17% reported declines. Forty-three percent of Baccalaureate institutions reported increases, and 27% reported declines. Among Doctoral/Research institutions, many more (67%) reported increases than reported declines (12%) in their total number of international students for Fall 2007. Increases and declines include "slight", "some" and "substantial". Responding campuses were not asked to provide actual numbers of students, therefore it is not possible to determine the degree of the overall declines or increases.

The survey - which was conducted online in October 2007 to provide a timely "snapshot" of international students at U.S. colleges and universities for the current semester - was carried out by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in cooperation with American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), American Council on Education (ACE), Association of American Universities (AAU), Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC).

A total of 702 institutions responded to the survey, including 190 Doctoral/Research institutions, 152 Master's institutions, 121 Baccalaureate colleges, 198 two-year colleges, 22 Professional/Specialized institutions, and 13 other institutions. Included among these respondents were 93 institutions that enroll more than 1,000 international students. The responses from these 93 largest host institutions are also reported out in a separate analysis to compare with the trends at the leading host institutions nationally.

The Fall 2007 survey asked educators to indicate whether they had seen a change in new enrollments from selected major sending countries. The results indicate that new enrollments from most of these countries seem to be increasing, with respondents reporting more increases than declines. More institutions reported increases than declines in the number of students from China (53% reporting increases vs. 10% reporting declines, and the rest reporting level enrollments), Korea (35% reporting increases vs. 17% reporting declines), and India (38% reporting increases vs. 16% reporting declines). Also, more institutions are reporting increases for the Middle East as a region (25% reporting increases vs. 15% reporting declines). Survey respondents were asked to separately comment on enrollments from Saudi Arabia and 25% reported increases vs. 13% reporting declines. This is consistent with a new Saudi government program that began to make scholarship awards for their students to study abroad beginning in Fall 2005. However, for the second year in a row more institutions reported declines than increases in the number of students from Japan (31% reporting a decline vs. 21% reporting an increase).

Twenty-two percent of the responding institutions experiencing declines in international student enrollments cited visa application processes and concerns over delays/denials as the major reason for the decline, followed by cost of tuition/fees at U.S. institutions (16%) and decisions to enroll in another country's institutions (8%). Several educators believe the declines reflect a combination of several factors, including competition for international students among U.S. institutions, lack of financial aid or scholarships for international students, and potential students' negative perceptions of the visa and entry process.

Sixty percent (417) of all responding institutions have taken special steps to ensure that the number of international students on their campuses does not decline. These steps included new international programs or collaborations (cited by 33%), followed by new staff or additional staff time devoted to international recruitment (26%), new funding for international recruitment trips (23%), and new funding for marketing and promotion of programs (21%). Institutions that have devoted more resources for international student recruitment trips seem to have concentrated mainly on Asia, with China, Korea, and India as most popular recruitment destinations.

The full survey results are available for download at:

Leaders of the associations commented on the survey findings, noting with relief that international student numbers appear to be growing, while also urging campuses and the U.S government to continue working hard to sustain these renewed flows of international students.

According to Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, "vigorous efforts at the national, state and campus levels have combined to produce this rebounding of international student enrollments. Given increased global competition for talent, as well as expanded higher education options in many of the leading sending countries, America needs to continue its proactive steps to insure that our academic doors remain wide open, and that students around the world understand that they will be warmly welcomed."

"We are pleased to see a growing body of evidence that international students value community colleges as an important gateway to American higher education," said George R. Boggs, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. "As they do for the 12 million students they annually serve in the U.S., community colleges provide international students a welcoming and affordable option, interaction with caring and distinguished faculty, and supportive small class sizes -- all of which prepares them for transfer and further education."

"The continued growth in international student enrollments comes as good news," says Constantine W. Curris, President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Everyday there is increasing evidence that our students must attain a more global perspective if they are to live successfully in a world in which international boundaries are no longer a factor. International students contribute both global awareness and cultural diversity on our college and university campuses; in doing so, they are an important part of enhancing our students' education. AASCU institutions are strongly committed to providing a welcoming environment for international students."

"We are encouraged to see that these preliminary data show that U.S. higher education is regaining lost ground," said David Ward, president of the American Council on Education. "Clearly, institutions are working harder to attract international students and their efforts are paying off."

"We are encouraged by the increase in first-time international student enrollments at our nation's research universities," said Robert M. Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities. "Our universities have worked hard to overcome the perception that international students are not welcome in this country. The federal government also deserves credit for its efforts to assure international students they are welcome. Due to these outreach efforts, the establishment of international programs, as well as enhanced recruitment efforts, 67 percent of research institutions participating in the survey reported an increase in international student enrollment. As home to many of the top research universities in the world, we are pleased that talented international students view the U.S. as their first choice for academic study and research opportunities."

"This survey is an additional indication of a continuing rebound in international student trends," said Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) President Debra W. Stewart. "However, a recent CGS report shows a significant decline in the rate of increase, so we must continue to work hard to attract the best and brightest students from around the globe."

"We are happy to see international enrollments continue to trend upward," said Marlene M. Johnson, Executive Director and CEO, NAFSA: Association of International Educators. "It is important to acknowledge this recovery and to recognize the State Department for the great work it has done to improve the visa process. Colleges and universities are also doing their part, by continuing to redouble their recruitment and outreach efforts. At the same time, when one considers the international context - the recent dramatic growth in international student enrollments in competitor countries, where proactive policies are in place to attract international talent, and the continuing robust growth in the number of internationally mobile students worldwide - it is clear we are not doing as well as we should be. Attracting international students and scholars to the United States is integral to effective public diplomacy, and we need a comprehensive national strategy for strengthening this important asset."

“These results corroborate the findings of a recent CGS survey, which found a 3% gain in both first-time and total enrollment of international graduate students,” said Council of Graduate Schools President Debra W. Stewart. “However, the rate of growth has slowed over the past two years, as the global competition for top graduate students has increased. It is therefore encouraging to see that many institutions are taking action to maintain international enrollment. Our survey, similarly, found that 81% of U.S. graduate schools have recently undertaken international outreach efforts, such as working with foreign institutions to identify prospective students.”

"The rebound in international student enrollments is very good news, but we need to make substantially more progress," said Peter McPherson, president of NASULGC, A State University Association. "Clearly, our campuses are regaining their status as destination schools for students from around the world. This can only lead to improved international cooperation and understanding and a strengthening of our competitiveness through discovery and innovation."

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IIE Experts

IIE experts on international education are available for interviews or speaking engagements.

Dr. Allan E. Goodman
President and CEO

Peggy Blumenthal 
Senior Counselor to the President