Last year, nearly 1 million international students studied in the US. Long considered the land of opportunity, the US has always attracted a significant percentage of the world’s international scholars. In recent years, the numbers of international students have skyrocketed; they’re a lot younger, and while they’re from all over the globe, they’re likely from only a couple of places in the world. They also receive significant funding from their home country. International students coming to study in the US are changing the face of universities across the country. Let’s take a look at what’s happening—and why.
1. They’re younger
A recent report published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) found that more international students who pursue higher education in the US come from US high schools. IIE’s Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation, Rajika Badhari says, “While secondary students from around the world have been coming to the United States on high school exchange programs for many years, IIE’s new analysis shows that the number of students who enroll directly in US schools to earn a US high school diploma now significantly outnumbers those who are here on exchanges. This is a remarkable finding, and one which has implications for US higher education.” What does this mean? Students are coming to the US earlier and then following the direct pipeline from secondary school to higher education.
Even the ones who don’t study at US high schools before enrolling in a university program are historically younger. International students are not just coming for graduate school anymore; they’re starting their university education in the US as undergraduates—and freshmen, more often than not
This uptick in younger international students on US campuses has forced many universities to strengthen their foreign-student services programs. Younger international need the same academic, social, and emotional supports as domestic students, if not more so. In addition to changing freshmen orientation to meet international needs, universities are addressing issues related language barriers, cultural and religious differences, and a new kind of homesick—typically from thousands of miles away, not to mention every college student’s need: time management skills. Many universities started mentorship programs for international undergraduates in the US, pairing students with older international students, or even graduate students who typically have fewer emotional support needs, mostly because they’re older.
2. There are more of them
According to the Wall Street Journal, international students comprised nearly 5 percent of all undergraduate and graduate enrollment in the US in 2015, up from about 3 percent in 2005. The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, an annual survey of study abroad trends published by the IIE in partnership with the US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, confirmed that the number of international students at US universities experienced its highest growth rate in 35 years. The IIE’s conclusion? The US continues to be the destination of choice for international students. According to the IIE 2015 Open Doors press release, IIE President Dr. Allan E. Goodman said, “International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st-century education. Studying abroad is one of the best ways undergraduate and graduate students gain the international experience necessary to succeed in today’s global workforce. And studying in another country prepares students to be real contributors to working across borders to address key issues in the world we share.” Stay tuned for the 2016 Open Doors Report, to be released later this month.
3. Likely from Asia
51 percent of all international students who studied abroad in the US last year were from Asia. China contributed 31 percent of the total. Of the 974, 926 students, 304,040 thousand hailed from China, 132,888 from India, and 63, 710 from South Korea. 20 percent of those students studied business and management, and another 20 percent study engineering. Where are they going? All over the country. According to the 2015 IIE Open Doors Fast Facts, in 2015, the top five US institutions hosting the largest numbers of international students are: New York University, the University of Southern California, Columbia University, Arizona State University, and the University of Illinois—Urbana.
4. They pay their own way
As undergraduate numbers bulge, so do pocketbooks. Many of the US’s international students—roughly 60 percent—report that their family covers their tuition. A growing number also study on scholarships sponsored by their governments. Studying in the US no longer means you have to be from a well-traveled, well-heeled elite class. The surging middle classes from places like Shanghai and Seoul, Riyadh, Delhi, and Taipei now compete with their once elite classmates.
The US maintains its global edge in international education. Superior universities coupled with a diversity of study options continue to make it one of the top study destinations in the world.
Learn more about studying in the US.
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