If you read the education news during the past two weeks, it was nearly impossible to miss the headlines: international students are coming to the United States in greater numbers, and they are going to more U.S. universities in more U.S. states. More than 1,000 news reports across the country and around the world announced the latest statistics and trends, illustrating the growing impact these students have on the U.S. economy and communities, on the institutions that host them and the American students with whom they live and learn, and on their home countries.
The Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “Chinese Undergrads Help Set New Record,” noting that the “Growing Number of International Students Remains a Bright Spot in Higher Education.” The Washington Post elaborated further, letting readers know that Chinese and Saudis lead foreign student surge at U.S. colleges and universities, and describing which schools in the DC area hosted the highest number of international students. An AP wire story, "Number of Foreign Students in US Hits Record High," ran in the Denver Post and hundreds of other newspapers and broadcast news sites around the country, and there were syndicated stories in the McClatchy and Miami Herald news services, as well as original stories in US News and World Report, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Christian Science Monitor, and other major media. We also saw widespread coverage on online news sites and even a CNBC report that appeared on the ubiquitous seat-back screens in yellow cabs across New York City. (See more news coverage on the IIE website.)
This massive media interest was triggered by findings from the new Open Doors® Report on International Educational Exchange, released on November 17 by the Institute of International Education in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on the occasion of the 15th annual celebration of International Education Week.
For those of us at the Institute, every week is international education week. It is gratifying therefore to see this important topic getting high-profile attention in major media and to see readers and policymakers take note of the student mobility trends that we live and breathe all year long.
Why is this important? This kind of widespread media coverage brings international education to the forefront, and it spurs policy discussions on topics such as skilled immigration, student recruitment, national scholarship programs, and the impact on higher education in the U.S. and around the world.
A Closer Look: What do the Open Doors statistics mean?
Beyond the top-line news stories in major media, it is even more interesting to see—and hear—some of the in-depth reporting on what the findings mean for specific states, countries, and institutions, often with IIE’s experts helping to put the statistics and trends into context, or with State Department experts talking about what this means for public diplomacy.
Raising questions: Several online and broadcast outlets addressed significant questions about recent trends and what they mean.
- Public Radio International’s "The World," which runs on over 300 public radio stations nationally, looks at how Foreign students in the United States provide a social—and financial—boost at American colleges, with an in-depth interview with Rajika Bhandari, who heads the research and evaluation division at IIE. Dr. Bhandari explains how “foreign students become ambassadors to the US and ambassadors from their home countries for the vast majority of American students who won't ever go overseas," and tackles the “myth” that foreigners are taking spots from American students.
- Quartz.com, a self-described digitally native news outlet for business people in the new global economy, takes a closer look at Why Iran and Brazil are sending more college students to the United States, and explored trends and circumstances in each of the leading countries that are encouraging more students to come to the United States.
- In a column on Forbes.com, the Council on Foreign Relations’ fellow who covers South Asia explores why there was large growth in students from India, but not the other direction, in "India and U.S. Higher Education: Strong Indian Presence in the United States, but Americans Studying in India Still Meager."
- An article on the World Economic Forum blog concludes, “Hopefully along with this growth in student mobility, the public will also keep thinking about the bigger questions: who is impacted, who is losing out, what does this billion dollar business means for competition between countries, universities and for students and their families, and what are global rankings doing to the overall quality of education.”
- Andres Oppenheimer’s syndicated column in the Miami Herald looks at the impact of Latin American countries’ scholarship programs and the Obama administration’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas programs on increasing student exchange with Latin America.
Effect on institutions: Inside Higher Ed explores in great depth what it means for faculty to have so many international students—particularly Chinese students—in their classrooms, while the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that American campuses have never been more international, in a feature that was later published in the New York Times. Diverse Issues in Higher Education notes the effects of current developments such as the U.S.-China agreement to extend the time period for student visas, and The PIE News looks at growth from Saudi Arabia and at MENA as a recruitment region.
Local and regional impact: An article in Pew’s Stateline explores the student mobility picture in each of the states. Detroit News looks at the increase in international students in Michigan, and the Seattle Times explores how international students are related to Washington State's international trade and economic ties, while the Chicago Tribune notes that the University of Illinois is still the public university with the highest number of international students. In Los Angeles, Southern California Public Radio's "Take Two" segment interviewed IIE CEO Allan Goodman and the LA Times interviewed IIE's Peggy Blumenthal for their insight on the significance of USC’s falling to #2 as a host of international students after 12 years in a row as #1.
Further discussion: look for future blogs on news coverage of Study Abroad by U.S. students and on the coverage of Open Doors in international publications.