The Institute of International Education and AIFS Foundation Studying for the Future International Secondary Students in the United States paper found that 69,518 international students enrolled at US high schools in fall 2019, marking a 6% decline from 2018.
“[The decline] coincides with a flattening economic outlook and uncertain financial future for many Chinese families”
In 2019, F-1 visa holders made up 47,306 (68%) and J-1 holders 22,212 (32%) of international students at US high schools.
Declines were mainly among F‐1 visa holders, a cohort of students that “come to the US on an F‐1 visa [and] enrol in US high schools to receive a US high school diploma”. The report suggested the global expansion of international schools and educational opportunities at home had impacted the number of high school students choosing the US as a study destination.
“From 2016 to 2020, the number of international schools worldwide increased from 9,297 to more than 11,600, and enrolment of primary and secondary school students jumped from 4.6 million to nearly 6 million,” the report noted.
The US remains among the most expensive locations for secondary education school fees, the report said, quoting ISC Research data.
Chinese students made up 23,160 of the total 47,306 F-1 visa holders in 2019, followed by Vietnam and South Korea each sending around 8% of diploma‐seeking students.
The paper describes the numbers of Chinese students on F-1 visas as “noteworthy”, as numbers declined further in 2019, edging towards numbers level with those in 2013 (22,558).
Along with the expansion of international secondary schools in China since 2013, the fall from 33,275 in 2016 “coincides with a flattening economic outlook and uncertain financial future for many Chinese families”.
Mexico (1,577), Brazil (1,311), Canada (1,302) and Japan (1,264) also sent more than 1,000 diploma‐seeking students of F-1 visas in 2019 – students who are required to pay for their education and living expenses, the report highlighted.
J‐1 visas – designated for students on educational and cultural exchange programs – have remained stable at around the 22,000-24,000 mark over the previous seven years, while F‐1 visa holder “enrolment has seen more significant variability”, the report said.
The stability around J‐1 visa holders “may, in part, be attributed to stable funding for government‐sponsored youth exchange programs over the past 10 years” such as the US Department of State’s YES, FLEX, and Congress‐Bundestag Youth Exchange programs which provide scholarship opportunities for students from Eurasia, predominantly Muslim countries, and Germany, respectively.
German, Spanish, and Italian students account for 44% of J‐1 secondary students attending exchange programs, with Thailand and Brazil each making up about 6%.
F‐1 visa holders represent a “potential pipeline” for future enrolment in US higher education, the report indicated, given such students represent those “with both the financial means and the demand to receive a high quality international education that will support their goals to later pursue a U.S. higher education”.
The report also suggested that J-1 visa holders “represent a recruitment opportunity for US colleges and universities”, as students improve their English language, intercultural, communication, and teamwork skills.
Students also increased their understanding of the country, other cultures, and the world, AIFS Foundation Academic Year in America alumni reported.
“Nearly 50% of the AYA alumni who went on to study at a higher education institution enrolled in an institution outside their home country, with half of these students selecting an institution in the United States,” the report stated.
“The number of students studying outside their home country indicates that US college and university recruitment efforts aimed at international exchange students have potential.”