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Press Release

Fall Survey Data: Continued Growth in International Students Enrollments in the U.S.

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New Survey Finds Continued Growth in International Students Enrollments in the U.S.; Campuses Report Early Indication of International Student Enrollments for Fall 2011

According to about 750 U.S. campuses responding to a joint survey conducted by eight leading higher education associations, overall enrollments of international students increased this fall at about half (53% or 391) of responding member campuses. Twenty percent (148) of the responding institutions experienced declines, and 27% (196) report that overall international student enrollments stayed about the same as last year. Regarding new international student enrollments, the survey indicates that 52% of responding institutions reported an increase for Fall 2011, while 23% reported a decline, and 25% reported level enrollments. The Fall 2011 snapshot survey findings, while not comprehensive, suggest that both new and overall international student enrollments are likely to continue to grow at a similar rate of increase as last year. This year’s responses are very similar to those from last year’s snapshot survey.

The survey was conducted online in October 2011 to provide a timely “snapshot” of what U.S. colleges and universities are experiencing with regard to international student enrollment for the current semester. In addition to reporting increases or decreases, educators are also asked to provide comments as to their perception of the reasons for these changes and steps they are taking to attract and retain international students.

This collaborative initiative is separate from the annual Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange produced by the Institute of International Education with support from the U.S. Department of State. Open Doors provides comprehensive statistics and analysis based on detailed data collected throughout the previous year from more than 3,000 U.S. campuses, and the international student figures reported in Open Doors 2011 are for academic year 2010/11. The Fall snapshot survey is an effort by the U.S. higher education community to offer a complementary forward-looking, top-line view of international student enrollment trends contextualized by campus perspectives in the current year.

What continues to drive the growth in enrollments on many U.S. campuses? The major reasons for the reported increases appear to be largely related to continued active recruitment efforts (cited by 35% of responding institutions), the growing reputation and visibility of U.S. campuses abroad (33%), and an increased number of linkages with institutions in other countries (16%). The campuses reporting increases also noted an increase in the number of sponsored students and more foreign government scholarships; a change in their campus’ recruitment or admissions policies and processes; tuition discounts, scholarships, and financial aid; and word of mouth.

Sixty-two percent (461) 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 staff or additional staff time devoted to international recruitment (cited by 54%), followed by new international programs of collaborations (cited by 53%), new funding for international recruitment trips (37%), and new funding for marketing and promotion of programs (32%). Many respondents also indicated steps, such as increased focus on retention efforts, better student support services and the introduction or expansion of English language programs.

Many institutions elaborated on the special recruitment initiatives they launch, including adding recruitment staff, recruiting students in new markets, increased participation in fairs, expanded use of social media for marketing, and increased outreach to Embassies and to EducationUSA centers.

Institutions that have devoted more resources for international student recruitment trips seem to have concentrated mainly on Asia, with China by far the most popular recruitment destination. Many institutions also reported increased recruitment in the Middle East and in countries such as Brazil, Korea, Vietnam, Turkey and Indonesia. The institutions that did not take special steps mainly cited a lack of funding or resources.

A total of 746 institutions responded to the survey, including 217 Doctoral/Research institutions, 183 Master’s institutions, 137 Baccalaureate colleges, 127 two-year colleges, 17 Professional/Specialized institutions, and 12 other institutions.  Included among these respondents were 134 institutions that enroll more than 1,000 international students, whose responses are also reported out in a separate analysis.

The survey 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), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Leaders of the associations commented on the survey findings, noting the continued growth in the number of international students enrolled at U.S. institutions, while also urging campuses and the U.S government to continue working hard to sustain the renewed flows of international students.

"The findings of the fall 2011 survey indicate students from all over the world continue to see U.S. colleges and universities as the best in the world,” said Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education. “As they come here to invest in their futures, they also expose U.S. students to new cultures and ideas. U.S. institutions are taking proactive steps to facilitate this critical exchange and internationalize their campuses by welcoming international students and providing more opportunities for collaboration."

“The results of this snapshot survey highlight the continuing perception among foreign students that studying at institutions of higher education in the U.S. is a good investment for their future,” said Debra W. Stewart, President of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS).  She continued, “CGS research shows that international student interest at the graduate level remains strong, however the U.S. must maintain its outreach efforts to ensure we continue to draw the best and brightest to our schools.”

“The increases in enrollment of students from other countries reflected by this survey are an indication of a focus on internationalization on all sorts of campuses, which I am pleased to see,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “But our work is far from over in stepping up American higher education’s global engagement. I look forward to working with institutions, the government and the Institute of International Education and other like-minded groups to promote these efforts in the coming years.”

“We are pleased that for another year, international student enrollments have increased at the nation’s doctoral-granting and research institutions,” said Hunter R. Rawlings, President of the Association of American Universities.  “The rise in new and total enrollments demonstrates the continued interest of international students and scholars in the unparalleled education and training opportunities offered by U.S. research universities.”

“We are pleased to see that community colleges continue to be a destination of choice for many international students pursuing undergraduate education in the United States,” said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. “Our community colleges are a valuable gateway for international students who seek access and mobility to 4-year institutions throughout the United States.  International students also help to broaden cultural engagement on our community college campuses, opening a window to the world for students and local communities."


Partner Media Contacts
Sharon Witherell, Institute of International Education
Alice A. Blayne-Allard, American Association of Community Colleges
202.728.0200 x 233
Susan Chilcott, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
Tim McDonough, American Council on Education
Barry Toiv, Association of American Universities
Paul Hassen, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Belle Woods, Council of Graduate Schools
Ursula Oaks, NAFSA: Association of International Educators

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

Media Contact

Sharon Witherell
Director, Public Affairs
Tel: +1 212.984.5380

Shana Childs
Public Affairs
Tel: +1 212.984.5360