Since the late 1940s, more internationally mobile students have studied in the United States than in any other host country. This trend continues to the present day, with over 1 million international students enrolled in its colleges and universities. Over 1 million international students studied in the U.S. in 2015/16. China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada were the top places of origin, accounting for over 55 percent of the international students studying in the U.S. Over 131,415 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit in 2014/15. The Institute of International Education has reported annual international student mobility data for the U.S. through its Open Doors Report for over 60 years.

Source: Open Doors Report 2016, IIE


Inbound/International Student: Individuals studying in the United States on a non-immigrant, temporary visa that allows for academic study at the post- secondary level. Immigrants, permanent residents, citizens, resident aliens ("Green Card" holders), and refugees are excluded from this definition.  These students include both degree and non-degree students.

Foreign Student: The United States does not differentiate between foreign and international students.

Outbound Student: United States students (citizens and permanent residents) who are enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions, who study abroad for a short period of time, and then return to their home institutions in the United States to complete their degrees.

Higher Education Institution (HEI): A degree- awarding institution that is accredited at the college level by an agency or association recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These schools offer at least a one-year program of study creditable toward a degree and students are eligible for participation in Title IV Federal financial aid programs. Institutions that offer only non-degree awards, such as vocational certificates, are not included.

Public HEI: Educational institutions whose programs and activities are operated by publicly elected or appointed school officials and which are supported primarily by public funds.

Private HEI: Institutions controlled by a private individual(s) or by a non- governmental agency, and are usually supported primarily by non-public funds, and operated by other than publicly elected or appointed officials. These institutions may be either for-profit or not- for-profit

Data Tables

Data Collection and Resources

Three organizations oversee international student data collection in the United States:

The United States’ academic mobility data reported for Project Atlas is provided by IIE’s Open Doors’ research initiative. No governmental agency is responsible for setting any given policy relating to IIE data collection, although IIE receives support from the U.S. Department of State for data collection and dissemination.

Regionally accredited institutions of higher education (including two-year colleges) provide student data through annual surveys conducted by IIE. Data have been collected from 1919 and published in Open Doors since 1954. Specific data are collected on: academic degree and non-degree granting programs; other types of programs including vocational, academia, secondary, etc.; gender; academic level; type of host institution attended; field of study; sources of student financial support; and visa status.

The primary users of this data include policymakers, academia, government, and media inside and outside the United States. The data are disseminated annually via the Open Doors website and the Open Doors Report on International Exchange publication.