U.S. Schools Attracting Growing Number of Non-U.S. Students

By Jeffrey Thomas
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The number of non-U.S. students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions during the 2005-2006 academic year remained within a fraction of a percent of the previous year's totals, at 564,766, but new enrollments rose sharply, according to the Institute of International Education's (IIE) 2006 report on international education exchange.

"We are increasing the number of scholarship programs," said Miller Crouch, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs at a November 13 briefing on the report, Open Doors 2006. “We are continuing to make improvements in visa processing,” he said.

IIE President Allan E. Goodman, who moderated the briefing on the study in Washington, attributed the rebound in international student numbers in part to the outreach efforts of U.S. colleges and universities. “U.S. campuses are now seeing the results of their hard work over the past few years reaching out proactively to international students,” he said.

“Our advising offices abroad and higher education fairs are crowded with students and parents seeking information,” Goodman said. “These students know the quality of our educational systems and the value of a U.S. degree.”

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) funds the annual Open Doors study, which is based on a survey of nearly 3,000 accredited U.S. educational institutions by IIE, a nonprofit educational and cultural exchange organization based in New York City. The study on new enrollments is based on a smaller survey of 1,000 campuses.

Key findings from Open Doors 2006 include an 8 percent increase between 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 in new student enrollment. Given U.S. Department of State data showing a sharp rise in the number of student visas in the year ending September 2006, this rise in enrollment probably has continued into the current academic year, Crouch said.

Total enrollment in 2005-2006 remained “virtually flat” compared to the previous year, but this is not surprising because it takes years for increases in new enrollment to be reflected in an increase in the overall total.

Business and management remained the most popular field of study (up .8 percent to 100,881 students), followed by engineering (down 4.8 percent to 88,460 students).

U.S. campuses also hosted 96,981 international scholars in 2005-2006, up 8 percent from the previous year.

As the host of 22 percent of the world’s international students, the United States remains by far the Number 1 destination. “With several thousand campuses able to host international students [10 times as many as any of the other leading host countries], the United States has a huge untapped capacity to meet the growing worldwide demand for higher education,” Goodman said.


The leading country of origin for international students in the United States for the fifth consecutive year was India (76,503), although the number of Indian students declined 4.9 percent from 2004-2005. IIE’s Peggy Blumenthal attributed this decrease in Indian enrollment to “booming employment possibilities” in India.

China ranked second with 62,582 (up 0.1 percent), South Korea third with 58,847 (up 10.3 percent), Japan fourth with 38,712 (down 8.3 percent) and Canada fifth with 28,202 (up 0.2 percent).

IIE researchers attributed the decline in the number of Japanese students both to the strong Japanese economy and to demographic changes, particularly the shrinking number of college-age Japanese.

Other countries sending sharply increasing numbers of students to study include Taiwan (up 7.6 percent), Mexico (up 6.6 percent), Hong Kong (up 9.3 percent), and Nepal (up 24.7 percent).

According to IIE, visa application processes are not being cited as affecting international student enrollment as often as in the recent past. Whereas 35 percent of universities cited visa application processes as a negative factor in 2004-2005, just 20 percent did so in 2005-2006. The cost of tuition was cited almost as often (16 percent), or a combination of factors, such as competition from other host countries and increased capacity in the students’ home countries.

Crouch said the initial upfront fees required for applying to U.S. institutions are a problem for some students. He said the State Department and its partners, including the IIE and the network of international education advisers, are looking at ways to provide needy students with grants to help them deal with such fees.  


IIE also reported in Open Doors 2006 that a record number of U.S. students studied in other countries during the 2004-2005 academic year.

In 2004-2005, some 205,983 U.S. college students received credit for studying in other countries, an 8 percent increase from the 2003-2004 academic year, the report found. Top destinations for U.S. students were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Australia. The study also found double-digit increases in the number of U.S. students studying in 13 of the top 20 destinations, including Italy (up 13.4 percent), France (up 12.1 percent), China (up 34.9 percent), Japan (up 10.6 percent), Austria (up 12.8 percent), New Zealand (up 12.2 percent), Czech Republic (up 19.4 percent), Greece (up 16.5 percent), Chile (up 12.1 percent), South Africa (up 14.7 percent), Argentina (up 53.1 percent), Brazil (up 28.3 percent), and India (up 52.7 percent).

The report found that the trend continues toward U.S. students studying abroad in larger numbers but for shorter time periods, with a continued decline in popularity of traditional semester and yearlong programs.

Open Doors was released at the beginning of the seventh annual International Education Week, which is sponsored jointly by the Department of State and the Department of Education. “International Education Week provides schools, universities, communities, nonprofit organizations, and businesses across the United States and abroad the opportunity to recognize and encourage international educational exchange,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a statement marking the week.

For additional information on studying in the United States, see the ECA’s EducationUSA Web site.

For more information on visa procedures and traveling to the United States, see www.travel.state.gov and the State Department electronic journal See You in the U.S.A.

Information on the Open Doors 2006 is available on the IIE Web site.