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Press Release

Fall 2012 Snapshot Survey

Continued Growth in International Students Enrolled in U.S. Higher Education

View current Open Doors data

U.S. Campuses Report on Impact of International Students from China; Engagement with Brazil; Students Affected by Arab Spring Events.

According to a joint survey conducted by eight leading higher education associations, 61% (340) of responding member campuses report that the total number of international students enrolled at their institutions increased this fall compared to the previous year. Among the nearly 570 institutions responding, 17% (97) experienced declines, and 22% (124) report that their overall international student enrollments stayed about the same as last year. In addition, 56% of responding institutions reported an increase in new international students enrolled for fall 2012, while 23% reported a decline, and 21% reported that their new international student numbers remained level. The fall 2012 snapshot survey findings, while not comprehensive, suggest that the numbers of new international students and total international students are likely to continue to grow at a similar or even stronger rate of increase as last year.

The survey was conducted online in October 2012 to provide a timely “snapshot” of what U.S. colleges and universities are experiencing with regard to international student enrollment in 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 on other timely issues, such as the impact of the increasing number of Chinese students on U.S. campuses, whether their institutions have had increased engagement with Brazil, and whether their campuses have provided support to students who were affected by the Arab Spring.

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 2012 are for academic year 2011/12.

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 for the current academic year. Included among the 569 respondents were 120 of the 199 U.S. campuses that enroll more than 1,000 international students, and these responses are also reported out in a separate analysis.

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 68% of responding institutions), the growing reputation and visibility of U.S. campuses abroad (53%), and an increased number of linkages with institutions in other countries (30%). The campuses reporting increases also noted changes in course offerings, an increase in the number of sponsored students, and better communications with students, parents and schools in key countries as some reasons for their increased international student numbers.

More than two-thirds of all responding institutions (69%, 388) have taken special steps to ensure that the number of international students on their campuses does not decline. These steps included adding new staff or devoting additional staff time to international recruitment (cited by 61%), followed by new international programs of collaborations (cited by 52%), new funding for international recruitment trips (41%), and engaging third-party recruiters/agents (31%).

Institutions that have devoted more resources for international student recruitment trips say they have concentrated mainly on Asia, with China by far the most popular recruitment destination. Institutions also reported increased recruitment in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and in countries such as Vietnam, Brazil, Korea, India, Indonesia, and Canada. The institutions that did not take special steps mainly cited a lack of funding or resources, or reported that that their international student enrollment is stable and growing and they are continuing with their existing recruitment strategies.

Responding campuses were also asked to comment on some key issues that may have impacted their campuses in the past year. Regarding China, many respondents reported challenges related to integrating the growing number of Chinese students on their campuses and in their communities, and to ensuring English proficiency levels. Campus respondents indicated that they are adding more ESL classes, increasing their level of student support services, and assisting Chinese students with academic, social and cultural issues to address these challenges.

Regarding engagement with Brazil, the majority of institutions who reported closer engagement with Brazil this year indicated that they had begun new recruitment activities in Brazil, hosted more students from Brazil, engaged in partnership activities with Brazilian institutions, and conducted planning trips to Brazil. Many institutions specifically reported participating as host institutions in the Brazil government's major new Scientific Mobility Program. The United States currently hosts the largest number of students participating in this scholarship program, according to a recent IIE report, which indicated that nearly two thousand Brazilian undergraduate scholarship students have been placed at 238 U.S. host institutions in 46 U.S. states as of the fall 2012 semester.

Regarding support to students who were affected by the Arab Spring, many institutions indicated that they provided direct financial assistance, such as scholarships, tuition waivers or discounts, made short-term loans, provided free or reduced-rate housing and meal tickets, expanded personal and group counseling services, or assisted students with applying for economic hardship work authorization through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A total of 569 institutions responded to the survey, including 189 Doctoral/Research institutions, 122 Master’s institutions, 134 Baccalaureate colleges, 88 two-year colleges, 36 Professional/Specialized institutions, and 36 other institutions. 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.

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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

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