Foreign Students Storm the US: Five Facts about Who They Are

By LaFranchi, Howard | The Christian Science Monitor, November 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

Foreign Students Storm the US: Five Facts about Who They Are


LaFranchi, Howard, The Christian Science Monitor


International students flocked to US colleges and universities in record numbers in the 2010-11 academic year.The number surged nearly 5 percent over the previous year, reaching 723,277, according to the latest annual "Open Doors" report by the Institute of International Education and the State Department. The jump suggests a global hunger for the cachet and opportunity afforded by an American college education - despite the high cost to families and foreign governments.Foreign students contribute more than $21 billion to the US economy in tuition costs, book-buying, and living expenses - making higher education a top US service-sector export, the report finds. The makeup of international students in the US is changing in some surprising ways. Here are five.

International students flocked to US colleges and universities in record numbers in the 2010-11 academic year.

The number surged nearly 5 percent over the previous year, reaching 723,277, according to the latest annual "Open Doors" report by the Institute of International Education and the State Department. The jump suggests a global hunger for the cachet and opportunity afforded by an American college education - despite the high cost to families and foreign governments.

Foreign students contribute more than $21 billion to the US economy in tuition costs, book-buying, and living expenses - making higher education a top US service-sector export, the report finds. The makeup of international students in the US is changing in some surprising ways. Here are five.

#5 Big surge from China

The Chinese are big believers in the value of an American education. The number of students from China surged a whopping 23 percent in 2010-2011 to 157,558 - a jump of nearly 30,000 from the year before. That means more than 1 in 5 foreign students in the US is from China. 

Intent perhaps on solving the mystery of global business dominance by American companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Boeing, more than one-quarter of Chinese students in the US are pursuing studies in business and management. Even so, that concentration is still less than the percentage of Vietnamese, Indonesian, and French foreign students in business and management studies. Coming in a close second for Chinese students are engineering and related fields.

#4 Rebound from Saudi Arabia

The top five countries sending students to US colleges and universities in 2010-11 are the same as the year before: China, India, South Korea, Canada, and Taiwan. But the No. 6 slot this year goes to Saudi Arabia, which saw an astonishing 43.6 percent jump in one year - to 22,704 - in the number of students studying in the US.

After the 9/11 attacks, the number of Saudi students at US colleges and universities plummeted. The drop reflected a sentiment among many Saudi students that they no longer felt welcome in the US, amid increased federal scrutiny of foreigners in general and Arabs and Muslims in particular.

But the Saudis are back, the result in part of new Saudi government scholarship programs encouraging foreign study. Business and engineering are hot fields of study for the Saudis, but intensive English study tops their list. Nearly one-third of Saudi students are in the US to focus on learning English, the "Open Doors" report finds.

#3 Fewer from India

India has been the No. …

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