The United States of America has for the first time seen a decline in the number of new international students in these 12 years. However, among Indians and Chinese students, the country remains an important education hub. According to the ‘2017 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange’, India and China were among the top countries that sent the highest number of students to the American institutions last year even as the number of new international students enrolling at US colleges and universities declined
The report, released by Institute of International Education (IIE) and the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said while the overall number of international students studying in the US has increased, the number of new international students — those enrolled at a US institution for the first time in fall 2016 — declined by nearly 10,000 students to about 291,000, a three per cent decrease from the previous year.
“The scaling back of large Saudi and Brazil government scholarship programmes were a significant factor, as the number of students from those two countries showed the biggest decreases, particularly in non-degree study,” it said.
The factors driving the slowing of growth include a mix of global and local economic conditions, and in some cases expanded higher education opportunities at home and declining populations, the report said.
However, notwithstanding the decline, India and China were among the top places of origin for international students in the US, the report said.
“The top places of origin for international students studying in the United States were China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil,” it said.
The top host states were California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Each of these states saw increases in international students in 2016-17, it said.
The report said that the number of international students in the United States increased by three per cent over the previous year, and the number of American students studying abroad increased by four per cent from the prior year.
In 2016/17, for the second consecutive year, the US colleges and universities hosted more than one million international students, reaching a record high of 1.08 million.
According to the report, 45 per cent of the campuses reported declines in new enrolments for fall 2017, while 31 per cent reported increases in new enrolments and 24 per cent reported no change from last year.
Amid a harsh political climate in the US and tightening immigration rules, studying and working in America has become shrouded in uncertainty.
However, the report said that international students benefit US communities, colleges and universities, in many ways, including economically.
In 2016 international students brought $39 billion to US’ economy, through their spending on tuition, room, board and living expenses, according to the US Department of Commerce.
Their roles on campus as teaching and research assistants support the faculty in many departments, especially in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and their diverse perspectives help enrich classroom learning for US students.
“Students continue to be attracted to the high quality and diverse opportunities offered by US colleges and universities. But it is critical for US institutions to set strategic goals and be proactive in reaching out to students and families in a wide range of countries in the coming year, and for the US to keep its academic doors open to students from all over the world,” said IIE President and CEO Allan E Goodman.
The report states modest increases in the number of international students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees were partially offset by a decrease of 14 per cent in the numbers enrolled in non-degree programs, including short-term exchanges and intensive English language programmes.
The number of students staying on after graduation for 12 to 36 months of OPT rose by 19 per cent to more than 175,000 students, indicating a strong desire by international students to gain valuable career skills and connections before returning home.
The report further shows that 325,339 American students received academic credit last year at the home campus for study abroad in 2015/2016, an increase of four per cent from the previous year.
“The population of US students studying abroad continues to diversify, with greater inclusion of students from under-represented racial and ethnic backgrounds,” it said.
The top host destinations for US students studying abroad in 2015/16 were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany.
China dropped out of the top five host countries, as the number of US students studying there decreased by 9 per cent.
Europe was the top host region, attracting more than 50 per cent of Americans who studied abroad, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia.