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Open Doors 2011: International Student Enrollment Increased by 5 Percent in 2010/11

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International Student Enrollment Increased by 5 Percent in 2010/11, Led by Strong Increase in Students From China

USC top host university; California top host state; NYC top host city; Women represent 45 percent of international students; Business and Management, Engineering remain top fields of study

November 14, 2011—The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by five percent to 723,277 during the 2010/11 academic year, according to the Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This represents a record high number of international students in the United States. This is the fifth consecutive year that Open Doors figures show growth in the total number of international students, and there are now 32 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than there were a decade ago. The 2010/11 rate of growth is stronger than the three percent increase in total international enrollment reported the previous year, and the six percent increase in new international student enrollment this past year shows more robust new growth than the one percent increase the prior year.

Increased numbers of students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level, largely accounts for the growth this past year. Chinese students increased by 23 percent in total and by 43 percent at the undergraduate level. These increases have been felt across the United States, with the top 20 host universities and top 10 host states each hosting more international students than in the prior year. Women represent approximately 45 percent of the total number of international students.

These strong increases have significant economic impact on the United States, as international students contribute more than $21 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Higher education is among the United States’ top service sector exports, as international students provide significant revenue not just to the host campuses but also to local economies of the host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, and support for accompanying family members. Open Doors 2011 reports that 63 percent of all international students receive the majority of their funds from personal and family sources. When other sources of foreign funding are included, such as assistance from their home country governments or universities, almost 70 percent of all international students’ primary funding, including tuition, comes from sources outside of the United States.

Higher numbers of international students were seen across the United States, with most states hosting higher numbers of students in 2010/11. Perennial leaders California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois remained as the top five hosts. Among the top 10 host states, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana all had increases that were higher than the national average (eight percent or greater.) Ohio had the greatest percentage increase, with 10.5 percent, and Ohio and Pennsylvania each moved up in the list. Economic analysis, produced by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, using Open Doors enrollment figures, show that international students in the top 10 host states bring revenue ranging from several million to nearly three billion dollars to their host states. (For further details, see Fact Sheets by State on IIE’s Open Doors data portal and the Economic Impact section of the NAFSA website).

“Because of the excellence and diversity of our colleges and universities, more students worldwide are choosing to study in the United States,” said Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of State (R). “Young people who study abroad gain the global skills necessary to create solutions to 21st Century challenges. In turn, international students globalize our campuses and communities.”

“It is positive news that our higher education institutions continue to excel in attracting students from all over the world, and in preparing American students to succeed in an increasingly global environment,” said Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education.  “Educational exchange in both directions furthers business and cultural ties between the United States and other countries.”

Chinese student enrollment in the United States rose to a total of nearly 158,000 students, or nearly 22 percent of the total international student population, making China the leading sending country for the second year in a row. Students from India, the second largest international cohort in the United States, decreased by one percent to a total of nearly 104,000. Yet, India, as a destination for U.S. students study abroad, increased 44.4 percent. While slightly declining in numbers, students from India still represent 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. South Korea is the third leading place of origin, with more than 73,000 students, increasing by two percent and making up 10 percent of the total. 

Together, the top three sending countries–China, India and South Korea–comprise nearly half (46 percent) of the total international enrollments in U.S. higher education. Canada, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Japan each represent approximately three to four percent of the total international student population, with these top seven places of origin comprising about 60 percent of the total. 

There were strong increases in the number of students from a few countries, most notably China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Iran, and Venezuela, which all had increases of more than 10 percent. Saudi Arabia moved up to number six this year, with an increase of 44 percent, due primarily to the large Saudi government scholarship program that has been ramping up over the past few years. Vietnam increased by 14 percent, moving up to #8 this year from #20 five years ago. Iran joined the leading 25 places of origin, moving up to #22 with a 19 percent increase to just over 5,600 students.  Venezuela moved up to #23, with an increase of 11 percent to almost 5,500 students. Both Iran and Venezuela had been among the top sending countries in the 1970s to 1980s, when both oil-rich countries sent large numbers of their students to the United States for higher education.

International enrollments at the undergraduate level reached 291,439, an increase of six percent. This increase brings the number of undergraduate international students much closer to the number of graduate level international students at 296,574. The proportion of graduate to undergraduate international students has fluctuated over the past decade. In 2000/01, there were more undergraduate international students, but this was reversed in 2001/02, and graduate international enrollments since then have remained higher than undergraduate. This year, the gap has narrowed, with close to 5,000 more graduate students in 2010/11 compared to nearly 20,000 more graduate students than undergraduate students the previous year. The total number of international students in non-degree programs, including short term programs and English language study, was up 8 percent to more than 59,000.

Early indications of international enrollments for Fall 2011, based on a “snapshot” Fall 2011 Online Survey conducted by IIE in cooperation with seven other higher education associations, show that campuses are seeing continued increases in the number of international students they host.

Highlights:
China is the leading place of origin for international students in the United States with 157,558 in 2010/11 (an increase of 23 percent from the previous year), followed by #2 India (103,895, down 1 percent), #3 South Korea (73,351, up 2 percent), #4 Canada (27,546, down 2 percent), #5 Taiwan (24,818 down 7 percent), #6 Saudi Arabia (22,704, up 44 percent), #7 Japan (21,290 down 14 percent), #8 Vietnam (14,888, up 14 percent), #9 Mexico (13,713, up 2 percent), #10 Turkey (12,184, down 2 percent), #11 Nepal (10,301, down 8 percent), #12 Germany (9,458, down 1 percent), #13 United Kingdom (8,947, up 1 percent), #14 Brazil (8,777, no change), #15 Thailand (8,236, down 4 percent), #16 Hong Kong (8,136, up 1 percent), #17 France (8,098, up 5 percent), #18 Nigeria (7,148 up 9 percent), #19 Indonesia (6,942, no change), #20 Malaysia (6,735, up 9 percent), #21 Colombia (6,456, down 7 percent), #22 Iran (5,626, up 19%), #23 Venezuela  (5,491, up 11%), #24 Pakistan (5,045, down 3 percent), #25 Russia (4,692, down 2.8 percent). (For breakdowns by country, including historical trends and academic level, see the Fact Sheets by Country on the Open Doors data portal.)

The top 10 most popular fields of study for international students in the United States in 2009/10 were Business and Management (22 percent of total), Engineering (19 percent), Mathematics and Computer Science (9 percent), Physical and Life Sciences (9 percent), Social Sciences (9 percent), Fine & Applied Arts (5 percent), Health Professions (5 percent), Intensive English Language (5 percent), Education (2 percent), Humanities (2 percent), and Agriculture (1 percent). Undeclared majors are excluded from the rankings of top fields of study.

For the tenth year in a row, the University of Southern California is the leading host institution, with 8,615 international students in 2010/11. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosts the second highest number of foreign students (7,991), with New York University a close #3 (7,988). Other campuses in the top 10 are: Purdue University (7,562), Columbia University (7,297), University of California–Los Angeles (6,249), Ohio State University (moving up from #15 the previous year, with 6,082), University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (5,995), Michigan State University (5,748), and Harvard University (moving up from #14 with 5,594).

California remains the leading host state for international students (96,535, up 2 percent), followed by New York (78,888, up 4 percent), Texas (61,636, up 5 percent), Massachusetts (38,698, up 10 percent), Illinois (33,766, up 9 percent), Pennsylvania (30,507, up 9 percent), Florida (29,719, no change), Ohio (24,709, up 11 percent), Michigan (24,668, up 2 percent), and Indiana (20,112, up 8 percent). (For breakdowns by state, including leading host institutions and leading fields of study and places of origin for foreign students studying in each state, see the Fact Sheets by State on the Open Doors data portal.)


The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States.  IIE has conducted an annual statistical survey of the international students in the United States since 1919, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since the early 1970s. The census is based on a survey of approximately 3,000 accredited U.S. institutions which host international students. Open Doors also reports on surveys on international scholars at U.S. universities; international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs; and on U.S. students studying abroad (since 1985). A full press kit and further details on the Open Doors 2011 surveys and their findings can be accessed on the Open Doors website, and the full 120 page report can be ordered for $64.95 from IIE Books.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State leads a wide range of academic, professional, and cultural exchanges that include approximately 40,000 participants annually, including the Fulbright Fellowships and Scholarships and the International Visitor Leadership Program, with the goal of increasing mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. ECA sponsors the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships for U.S. undergraduates with financial need, administered by IIE, and also manages the EducationUSA network of advising offices, providing information to students around the world who wish to study in the United States. For more information on the Department of State’s educational and cultural exchange activities, visit www.exchanges.state.gov

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