The data marks the 7th consecutive year of expansion for US institutions – led by a gain in enrolments from China (21%) particularly at the undergraduate level (26%), totalling 235,000 Chinese students studying in the US.
As well as India, enrolments from South Korea also saw a decline in the latest academic year
This figure is far beyond the next countries in the top 10 source list; India is the second biggest source country, with a slight decline in enrolments year-on-year.
Figures further reveal how government funding in source countries continues to aid student mobility. The King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) supported a 30% increase in students from Saudi Arabia and Brazil’s Scientific Undergraduate Mobility Program contributed to a 20% growth in enrolments.
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“Countries like Brazil and Saudi Arabia are making substantial investments in sending some of their brightest students abroad for training, just as individual families in China and around the globe are making personal investments to get their kids a world class education in the US, to equip them with the knowledge and cross-cultural skills they will need in whatever career they pursue,” said Dr. Allan Goodman, President and CEO of IIE.
Government-funded scholarship programmes in Kuwait also led to 37% growth, making it the newest addition to the top 25 sender countries with a total 5,115 students studying in the US.
Iran was the other big growth story in the report, with enrolments increasing 25% driving the total number of students up to 8,700.
Funding comes from family or personal financing for 63% of students
As well as India, enrolments from South Korea also saw a decline in the latest academic year by 2.3% (South Korea’s decline was also noted by institutions in a recent New Zealand survey). However, these countries combined with China make up 49% of the total number of international students in the United States.
Funding comes from family or personal financing for 63% of students – leading researchers to attribute India’s decrease to the continual devaluation of the Indian rupee.
“We know most international undergraduate students who come to the US support themselves through their personal and family funds,” said Rajika Bhandari, Deputy Vice President, Research and Evaluation, IIE.
“So it’s quite conceivable that those Indian students who were planning on using their own funds for a US education are finding it very difficult to actually come to the US and purchase the US dollar.”
The decline in South Korean enrolments meanwhile reflects the improvement in domestic education and increasing interest in studying in China.
Peggy Blumenthal, Senior Counsellor to the President at IIE, said: “Many South Korean students stay home and pursue graduate education with teachers who themselves have been trained in the US. One other element may be the expansion of institutions in China that are trying to attract students from the East Asian area. The largest study group in China are South Koreans.”
California and New York continue to attract the largest numbers of students but non-traditional destination states including Pennsylvania and Indiana notched up enrolment inclines, thanks to unified marketing efforts through consortia launched among HEIs within each state.
It is still the case that fewer than 10% of all US undergraduate students will study abroad by the time they graduate
“I think those numbers [in non-traditional states] might be due to the fact that people are coming to community colleges here and different institutions than just the traditional university,” commented Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Outbound student numbers also reached record highs, up 3% to 283,332 students. The UK remains the leading destination for US students followed by Italy, Spain, France and China.
A significant number of students studied in Latin America and Japan has also seen a 28% increase, bouncing back after declines due to the tsunami in March of 2011.
Although the total number is at an all-time high, it is still the case that fewer than 10% of all US undergraduate students (including community college students) will study abroad by the time they graduate.
“I’m worried about how few young Americans have a passport,” said Goodman. “We need a mind shift here in HE to make international for American students a part of what it means to be educated.”