International Students: Surprising Numbers

It’s not surprising that the US is a leading competitor in international student enrollment, but if you start looking into the figures, some things are quite surprising. Here are some.

In 2010/11, the number of international students in the U.S. reached a record high of 723,277, with a 32% increase since 2000/01. (IIE, Open Doors Report, 2011). In 1955, this number was about 48,000! Currently, the tiny nation of Nepal, which is No. 11 on the world list for international students to the U.S.—plus, okay, my home country—sends about a fourth of that number of students every year; China alone sends almost three times as many students today.

While the total percentage of international students in the country is not surprising (it’s roughly 3%), a whopping 10% or so of total graduate students and a stunning 35% of doctoral students in the U.S. are international. I cannot imagine how American higher education is being impacted by this tectonic shift in its demographics. And that’s the general context of my dissertation!

What is more, graduate enrollment has been increasing more than undergraduate in the past decade on average. Surprisingly, Ohio is the top host for international students (10.5%) and New York #7—and unsurprisingly, U of Southern Cal is #1 among institutions. Engineering is not the top field—it’s Business and Management (21 versus 18 percent)—and my field of English Studies could be in very small decimal points within the 2.2 percent in Humanities as a whole! Almost two out of three students pay by self or family, and I belong to the 23% who work and study in the university.

And, finally, to add a dimension that is not talked about very often, almost 3,00,000 American students study abroad. Guess how many of them study foreign languages? Around 6%. Want to know why so few do so? Haha, because they learn the languages outside the classroom!

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