Vietnam is currently the fastest-growing market of international students coming to U.S. colleges and universities to study. Over the past decade, the number of Vietnamese students in U.S. higher education has increased more than sixfold, from just over 1,200 students in 1997/98 to almost 13,000 in 2008/09. A large part of this increase has occurred in the past three years, with fall 2008 showing an increase of 45 percent, following increases of 45 percent and 31 percent the previous two years. These continuous, large increases have placed Vietnam among the top ten places of origin of international students in the U.S., moving from 20th place in 2006/07 to 13th place in 2007/08 to 9th place in 2008/09. At community colleges, Vietnam is now the third most popular place of origin, after South Korea and Japan, and ahead of China and Mexico.
This IIE Briefing Paper examines the attitudes and perceptions of prospective international students from Vietnam and is the first in a series of attitudinal surveys of students from key sending countries. Students were asked what they thought about the U.S. both in general, and specifically as a potential study abroad destination compared to other key host destinations. Key findings include: the U.S. was the first choice destination for the majority of respondents and was rated the highest for overall favorable impression compared to the U.K., Australia, Singapore and France; the U.S. is perceived as a scientifically and technologically advanced country with an excellent higher education system and a wide range of schools and programs offering many scholarships; the U.S. is considered an enjoyable place to study but not the safest place; and cost was cited as the primary obstacle to being able to study abroad, above all others.