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US: boom in foreign high school students seeking HE pathway

The number of diploma seeking foreign secondary students in the US has more than tripled in the last decade, showing more students have clear ambitions to be more competitive in higher education application pools, a new study has found.

Of the 75,000 international secondary students in 2013, 67% were diploma seeking

Of the 73,019 international secondary students in the US in 2013, 67% were diploma seeking (F-1 visa). The research, carried out by the Institute of International Education (IIE), found that international student mobility trends among these students largely reflect those at the post secondary level, indicating a clear extension of the US higher education recruitment pipeline.

“Prospective international students may perceive that they can gain an admissions advantage in applying to US higher education institutions by engaging in an international educational experience during their secondary school years,” the report notes.

“Those numbers and trends have implications for future growth in global mobility at the post secondary level”

Still, despite the growth in numbers overall, IIE says there is room for high schools to expand their capacity to host foreign students and become viable recruitment sources for the higher education sector.

International students – including J-1 visa short term students – only account for 1% of all secondary students in the US compared to 4% at the post-secondary level.

“For every F-1 secondary international student in the U.S. there are about seven international undergraduate students indicating that colleges and universities will continue to need a robust overseas recruitment plan in order to recruit substantial numbers of international students”, the study states.

The research into F-1 and J-1 student mobiity is the first of its kind and was driven by the need to better understand how those students are mobile Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s Deputy Vice President of Research and Evaluation, told The PIE News.

“Those numbers and trends have implications for future growth in global mobility at the post secondary level,” she commented.

Reflecting HE demographics, F-1 student numbers are dominated by Asian enrolments– China sends the most students(46%), followed by South Korea.

Indian enrolments, the second largest cohort in the post-secondary sector, are however negligable at the highschool level. “I think that’s the real distinguishing factor,” commented Bhandari.

“One of the reasons why international students might choose to study in the US is the chance to bolster their English skills before they’re ready for college, but with Indian students there’s no language barrier because most of them have already been educated in English.”

A similar pattern among low Saudi Arabian students in US high schools can be explained by the King Abdullah Scholarship programme, which funds only undergraduate study.

Reflecting HE demographics, F-1 student numbers are dominated by Asian enrolments

Study destinations also follow HE trends with the coasts attracting the largest proportions of F-1 students lead by California (8,573) and New York (3,805).

The report also underlines that the US is not alone in attracting HE pathway driven students, however it is by far the most popular. Australia, Canada and the UK have all seen enrolments increase recently with numbers reaching 16,693, 23,757 and 25,912 respectively.

IIE says it commissioned the research after receiving a high number of enquiries about high school student mobility. Until now, data on secondary student mobility has traditionally recorded only on exchange students, and IIE says that it wanted to address a “critical gap” in research by focussing on direct enrolments.

“We certainly see this as a first step towards better understanding the trajectory and the pathways of globally mobile students,” Bhandari said.

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