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International students have returned to US colleges, fueled by a surge from India

by Madison Thomas
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International Student Resurgence

Overseas students have made a robust return to American universities, marking a significant rebound after a pandemic-induced decline. A recent study, released on Monday, indicates a noteworthy resurgence in international student enrollments, driven primarily by a remarkable 35% increase in students hailing from India.

The research, jointly conducted by the State Department and the nonprofit Institute of International Education, reveals that during the 2022-23 academic year, the total number of international students in the United States surged by 12%. This marks the most substantial annual growth in over four decades, with the international student population surpassing one million, a figure not seen since the 2019-20 school year.

“Allan E. Goodman, CEO of the Institute of International Education, underscores, “This reinforces that the U.S. remains the destination of choice for international students wishing to study abroad, as it has been for more than a century.”

Of particular note is the substantial influx of Indian students, with nearly 269,000 individuals from India enrolling in American colleges, a record-breaking figure that places India second only to China in terms of sending students to the U.S. These students predominantly opt for graduate programs, often focusing on disciplines within the realms of science, technology, and business.

Marianne Craven, the State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary for academic exchange, observes, “The U.S. maintains a strong relationship with India on education, which I think is getting even stronger and even more connected.”

While China still retains its position as the leading source of foreign students in the U.S., with 290,000 students, it has experienced a third consecutive year of declining numbers. This shift can be attributed to various factors, including strained international relations, heightened competition from universities in the United Kingdom and Canada, and prolonged travel restrictions in Asia during the pandemic.

Simultaneously, U.S. universities have intensified their efforts to recruit students from India, recognizing the potential of tapping into a rapidly growing population. The United Nations has predicted that India will surpass China as the world’s most populous nation this year. Notably, Indian students now outnumber their Chinese counterparts in 24 U.S. states, including prominent destinations like Illinois, Texas, and Michigan.

For the second consecutive year, graduate programs in the United States have emerged as the primary attraction for international students, experiencing a remarkable 21% increase in enrollment. In contrast, undergraduate enrollments saw a modest 1% uptick. This marks a departure from the previous decade when undergraduates constituted a larger proportion of international students.

The growth in international student numbers in the past year can largely be attributed to the popularity of mathematics and computer science programs, which outpaced all other fields with a 20% surge in enrollment. Engineering and business programs closely followed suit. Together, these three fields account for over half of all international students studying in the United States.

This resurgence in international enrollment nearly restores the figures to their pre-pandemic levels, reminiscent of the peak in 2018 when the United States hosted nearly 1.1 million international students. However, enrollments had significantly declined over the subsequent two years due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Encouragingly, the upward trend in international student enrollments appears to be continuing, with an 8% increase reported for this fall, according to a smaller survey designed to capture recent trends.

Although international students make up just 5.6% of the total college student population for the 2022-23 academic year, their role in U.S. higher education is disproportionately significant. University leaders emphasize their importance in fostering global exchange, as well as their contribution to institutional revenue. Typically, international students are subject to higher tuition rates, effectively subsidizing education for domestic students.

Apart from China and India, other countries that prominently contributed students to the U.S. include South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Nigeria. The previous school year also witnessed a record number of students arriving from Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Italy, Nepal, Pakistan, and Spain.

While the influx of international students continues to rise, many American colleges grapple with challenges in attracting domestic students. Total enrollment across all colleges remains sluggish in the aftermath of pandemic-related declines, with freshman enrollment experiencing a 3.6% decrease in the fall of 2023, as reported in a separate study by the National Student Clearinghouse.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about International Student Resurgence

Q: What is the key takeaway from the resurgence of international students in U.S. colleges?

A: The key takeaway is that international student enrollments in U.S. colleges have rebounded significantly, with a 12% increase in the 2022-23 academic year, driven by a remarkable 35% surge in students coming from India.

Q: How does the recent surge in Indian students compare to other countries?

A: Indian students have contributed substantially to this surge, with nearly 269,000 students enrolling in American colleges, surpassing all previous records and ranking second only to China in terms of international student numbers.

Q: What academic programs are international students primarily opting for in the U.S.?

A: Most international students are choosing graduate programs, particularly in science, technology, and business fields. This marks a shift from the previous decade when undergraduates constituted a larger proportion of international students.

Q: What factors have influenced the decline in Chinese international student numbers?

A: Several factors have contributed to the decline in Chinese international student numbers, including strained international relations, increased competition from universities in the United Kingdom and Canada, and prolonged travel restrictions in Asia during the pandemic.

Q: How does the growth in international student enrollment impact U.S. higher education?

A: International students play a significant role in U.S. higher education by fostering global exchange and contributing to institutional revenue. They often pay higher tuition rates, effectively subsidizing education for domestic students.

Q: Are there other countries besides India and China that send a substantial number of students to the U.S.?

A: Yes, besides India and China, countries like South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Nigeria also contribute a significant number of students to the United States.

Q: Has the resurgence in international student enrollment fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels?

A: While the recent growth in international student enrollments nearly restores the figures to their pre-pandemic levels, there is continued optimism, with an 8% increase reported for the fall term, indicating a positive trend.

Q: How has the pandemic affected domestic student enrollments in U.S. colleges?

A: Domestic student enrollments in U.S. colleges have faced challenges, with total enrollment remaining sluggish in the wake of pandemic-related declines. Freshman enrollment specifically saw a 3.6% decrease in the fall of 2023.

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1 comment

Reader123 November 18, 2023 - 7:30 pm

wow, this news so good, intl students back in us college! big numbers frm India, China still numbr one but decrising.

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