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New Data on International Student Mobility

The Institute of International Education (IIE), in collaboration with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), recently released the newest Open Doors report on international educational exchange. The report provides comprehensive statistical analysis of postsecondary academic mobility between the US and other countries.

This year’s report found international students now make up 5.2 percent of students enrolled in US higher education, up from 4.8 percent last year, and contributed $35.8 billion to the US economy in 2015. In addition, the number of international students in the US topped 1 million for the first time.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The number of international students in US colleges and universities increased by 7.1 percent from the previous year, though this is down from a 10 percent increase in 2014.

  • While there were significant increases in both undergraduate (7.1 percent) and graduate (6.0 percent) enrollments, undergraduate student numbers continued to surpass those in graduate programs.

  • China remained the top country of origin in 2015, sending nearly 329,000 students to the US. Other top countries include India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The number of students from South Korea has decreased each year since 2008.

  • The countries with the largest growth in terms of the number of international students studying in the US were India, Nepal, Vietnam, Nigeria, and Colombia. Indian student enrollment growth was mostly limited to graduate and Optional Practical Training programs.

  • Despite trends from previous years, the gender gap among international students widened — 57 percent of international students are men whereas only 43 percent are women.

  • Engineering surpassed business as the most popular academic program chosen by international students. STEM (46.1 percent), business and management (19.2 percent), and social sciences (7.8 percent) represented the other top fields of study.

  • The main source of funding for international students continued to be personal and family funds (66.6 percent), followed by funding from foreign governments or universities, foreign private sponsors, and international organizations.

The release of the report signaled the US government’s continuing support for international education and its significance in the economy, our institutions, and as an opportunity to develop future leaders.

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