Jan 27, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

While the future of international studies in the U.S. may be uncertain due to the change in administration, new data from the Institution of International Education (IIE)’s Open Doors 2016 report paints a positive picture of significant growth over the past year. Here’s a closer look at several key findings pertaining to inbound and outward bound study.

Record-Breaking Numbers

A staggering 1,043,839 international students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions in the 2015/2016 academic year -- up 7.1 percent from the previous year.  This represents the first time international student numbers surpassed one million, as well as the tenth consecutive year of growth. The economic and academic impacts are profound: Not only did international students add more than $35 billion to the country’s economy, but they also vastly enrich science, research and innovation.

While China still tops the list of sending countries, India had a bigger year in terms of growth. Other countries coming on strong -- attributable to increased investments by their governments in outward-bound mobility, according to Open Doors -- included Saudi Arabia (third on the list of leading countries of origin, behind China and India) and Kuwait.

Outward-Bound Mobility Also Increasing

Meanwhile, just over 313,000 American students received academic credit at international universities, according to the most recent data -- a 2.9 percent increase from the prior year. While this is triple what it was two decades ago, the rate of growth has slowed.

Europe retained its title as top destination, with a third of American students choosing the UK, France and Spain. Italy and China were also popular, while Ireland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria and Greece all made strong showings. Latin America and the Caribbean also gained ground,  with Costa Rica leading regional growth rates at 8 percent.

Also worth highlighting? A whopping 24 percent of American students abroad majored in STEM fields, followed by Business and Management and the Social Sciences, at 20 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

 

While these numbers are a start, there’s still room for growth, says IIE: “The fact that 90 percent of all American undergraduate students enrolled in U.S. higher education are graduating without an international experience means that there is still a long way to go.”

Read more about studying in the US.

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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