15-Year Look Back Shows Big Changes in International Student Population in US

iew_2014_logos_0Over the past 15 years, substantial changes have occurred to the landscape of international students on US university campuses.

According to data released today by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in the 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, since 1999/2000, the number of international students in the US has increased by 72%, to an all-time high in 2013/14 of 886,052.

Since statistics have been collected by IIE, starting in 1948, the number of international students has increased each year, except for 1971/72 and from 2003 to 2006. The growth for the past school year of 8.1% is the largest percentage increase since 1980/81.

The top country for sending students to the US has been China over the past 15 years, with its share of total international students growing from 11% to 31%. But the rest of the top ten has seen significant shuffling.

In 1999/2000, the number-two country was Japan. Since then, their numbers have dropped by 59%, moving them down to 7th place. India, South Korea, and Canada have each moved up one spot, landing them at 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, respectively.

The countries making the biggest jumps over the past 15 years, moving into the top ten, are Saudi Arabia (from 21st to 4th), Vietnam (43rd to 8th), and Brazil (13th to 10th).

Taiwan has dropped from 5th to 6th; Mexico has held steady at 9th; and Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey have fallen out of the top ten.

Other changes over the past 15 years are

  • The contribution of international students to the US economy has grown from $9 billion to $27 billion.
  • In 2000, schools hosting 1,000 or more internationals numbered 135. Now there are 231.
  • The majority (2/3) of international students are supported primarily by family or personal funds, but the proportion of those funded by their governments has tripled.

International education, says Evan M. Ryan, assistant secretary of state for Education and Cultural Affairs, is a key part of meeting today’s global challenges:

International education is crucial to building relationships between people and communities in the United States and around the world. It is through these relationships that together we can solve global challenges like climate change, the spread of pandemic disease, and combatting violent extremism. We also need to expand access to international education for students from more diverse backgrounds, in more diverse locations of study, getting more diverse types of degrees. Only by engaging multiple perspectives within our societies can we all reap the numerous benefits of international education—increased global competence, self-awareness and resiliency, and the ability to compete in the 21st century economy.

The fifteen-year data was compiled in conjunction with this year’s 15th anniversary of International Education Week (November 17-21), a celebration initiative by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education.

(“Top 25 Places of Origin of International Students, 2012/13-2013/14,” Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education, 2014; “Top 25 Places of Origin of International Students, 1999/00-2000/01,” Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education, 2014)

Another New Year, Another New Record for International Students in the US

4290551550_474fbb9086_nThe number of international students at US colleges and universities is at an all-time high. Again.

In fact, that statement has been true for the past six years.

According to data from Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchangereleased last month by the Institute of International Education (IIE)—819,644 students from other countries were enrolled in US institutions of higher learning in 2012/13. That represents a 7% increase over the previous academic year.

The top-five sending countries remain the same: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. Students from China, making up 29% of international students in the US, grew their number by 21%, while those from Saudi Arabia increased by 31%. The number of students from India and South Korea fell by 4% and 2%, respectively, while Canada’s total rose by 2%.

Boost to the Economy

The influx of international students means an influx of dollars, as well. NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these students and their dependents added $24 billion to the US economy last year, and their spending supported or created.  313,000 jobs. That translates into 3 jobs for every 7 international students who come to the US. (A breakdown of the economic and job impact state by state can be found here.)

By far, the largest means of support for international students last year—constituting the primary source for 64% of students—was personal and family funds. This was followed by US colleges and universities (21%), foreign governments or universities (7%), and current employment (5%). Overall, more than 70% of funding came from outside the US.

US Is Top Destination

In 2011, there were 43 million international students worldwide—as reported by OECD, using data from the last available year. Based in part on OECD’s data, IIE determined that last year, 19% of all college and secondary students studying outside their country of origin were enrolled in the United States. The number-two country in this regard is the United Kingdom. Its 488,380 international students make up 11% of the global total. The next four host countries are China (8%), France (7%), Germany (6%), and Australia (6%).

While international students make up only 4% of the total enrollment in American colleges and universities, in Australia, more than one in four students (26%) come from outside the country. The UK (19%), France (12%), and Germany (11%) also have higher proportions of students from outside their borders. In China, the country sending the most students to the US, internationals make up only 1% of the total student population.

(“Fast Facts,” Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education; “The Economic Benefits of International Students to the U.S. Economy, 2013” NAFSA: Association of International Educators, 2013; “Primary Source of Funding, 2011/12—2012/13,” Open Doors 2013: Report on International Educational Exchange, Institute of International Education; Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD, 2013; Project Atlas: Trends and Global Data 2013, Institute of International Education, 2013)

[photo: “Encyclopedia Pages Showing World Flags,” by Horia Varlan, used under a Creative Commons license]