Open Doors 2013 Report

November 11, 2013—The 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released today, finds the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by seven percent to a record high of 819,644 students in the 2012/13 academic year, while U.S. students studying abroad increased by three percent to an all-time high of more than 283,000.

In 2012/13, 55,000 more international students enrolled in U.S. higher education compared to 2011/12, with most of the growth driven by China and Saudi Arabia. This marks the seventh consecutive year that Open Doors reported expansion in the total number of international students in U.S. higher education. There are now 40 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than a decade ago, and the rate of increase has risen steadily for the past three years. International students make up slightly under four percent of total student enrollment at the graduate and undergraduate level combined. International students’ spending in all 50 states contributed approximately $24 billion to the U.S. economy.

The number of U.S. students who studied abroad for academic credit increased by three percent to 283,332 students in 2011/12, a higher rate of growth than the one percent increase the previous year. More U.S. students went to Latin America and China, and there was a rebound in those going to Japan as programs reopened in Fall 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades, from approximately 71,000 students in 1991/92 to the record number in 2011/12. Despite these increases, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate years.

Findings of the Open Doors report, published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the subject of a briefing in Washington, D.C. on November 12, led by Assistant Secretary of State Evan M. Ryan and IIE President and CEO Allan E. Goodman.

“International education promotes the relationship building and knowledge exchange between people and communities in the United States and around the world that are necessary to solve global challenges,” said Evan M. Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. “The connections made during international education experiences last a lifetime. International students enrich classrooms, campuses and communities in ways that endure long after students return to their home countries. We encourage U.S. schools to continue to welcome more international students to their campuses and to do more to make study abroad a reality for all of their students.

“The careers of all of our students will be global ones, in which they will need to function effectively in multi-national teams. They will need to understand the cultural differences and historical experiences that divide us, as well as the common values and humanity that unite us,” noted IIE’s President Dr. Goodman. “International students coming to study in the U.S. benefit from access to some of the finest professors and research laboratories in the world, and Americans benefit substantially from the presence of international students who bring their own unique perspectives and knowledge to the classroom and the wider community.”

Commenting on the fact that 90 percent of American undergraduates still do not study abroad, Dr. Goodman said, “We need to increase substantially the number of U.S. students who go abroad so that they too can gain the international experience which is so vital to career success and deepening mutual understanding.”

The International Education Week briefing will examine key trends in detail, with a discussion of how economic factors and education policies affect global student mobility, and how academic exchange strengthens diplomatic and business relationships around the world.

International education creates a positive economic and social impact for communities in the United States and around the world. The strong increase in international student enrollment shows the continued conviction by international students and parents that a U.S. degree is a sound investment in their future careers. U.S. higher education offers an unmatched range of nearly 4,000 colleges and universities of all sizes and types, with an extensive variety of course offerings, fields of study, and price points.

The Open Doors Report is published by the Institute of International Education, an independent not-for-profit organization with a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE has conducted an annual statistical survey of the international students in the United States since its founding in 1919 and in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 1972. Open Doors also reports on the number of international scholars at U.S. universities; international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs; and on U.S. students studying abroad. Further details on the Open Doors 2013 surveys and their findings is on the Open Doors website and the full 100+ page report can be ordered for $69.95 from IIE Books.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State leads a wide range of academic, professional, and cultural exchanges that include approximately 40,000 participants annually, including the flagship Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program, with the goal of increasing mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. ECA also sponsors the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships for U.S. undergraduates with financial need, administered by IIE, and the Critical Language Scholarship Program in support of U.S. study abroad and the EducationUSA network of over 400 advising centers worldwide, which provides information to students around the globe who wish to study in the United States.

Learn more about the Department of State’s educational and cultural exchange activities


International Students in the US

Overview: The number of international students enrolled in U.S. higher education increased by seven percent to 819,644 students in 2012/13, with 55,000 more students than last year enrolled in colleges and universities across the United States. This 2012/13 data marks the seventh consecutive year that Open Doors reported expansion in the total number of international students in U.S. higher education. There are now 40 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than a decade ago, and the rate of increase has risen steadily for the past three years.

A strong increase in the number of “new” international students, those enrolling for the first time at a U.S. college or university in fall 2013, indicates that this growth trend likely will continue. New enrollments in 2012/13 were up ten percent from the prior year, following a seven percent increase in 2011/12. Both total enrollment and new enrollment had slowed after the economic slowdown in 2007/08, and both have now rebounded to previous high rates of growth.

Despite the increases in recent years, international students still constitute less than four percent of the more than 21 million students enrolled in U.S. higher education.

Places of Origin: The growth is largely driven by students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level. Chinese student enrollments increased by 21 percent in total to almost 235,000 students, and increased by 26 percent at the undergraduate level. There were also large increases in undergraduate students from several countries where the national governments have been investing in scholarship programs to send their students to the United States to study. This year, there was a 20 percent increase in students from Brazil, to a total of almost 10,900, reflecting the effects of the first full year of undergraduate students coming to the United States with scholarships from the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program. There was a 30 percent increase in the number of students from Saudi Arabia, with nearly 45,000 students in the United States, largely funded by the Saudi government scholarship program, now approaching its 10th year. On a smaller scale, the continued expansion of the Kuwaiti government scholarship programs led to 37 percent more students coming from Kuwait, with its more than 5,100 students making it the newest addition to the top 25 sender list. These increases and scholarship opportunities help explain why international undergraduates studying in the United States outnumber international graduate students for the second year in a row, after 12 years in which more international students in the U.S. were studying at the graduate level.

Students from the top three places of origin—China, India, and South Korea—now represent 49 percent of the total number of international students in the United States, with the number from China increasing, and the numbers from India and South Korea declining. After these top three countries, no country represents more than 5 percent of the total.

All places of origin on the top 25 list now have 5,000 or more students in the United States. There were increases in the number of students from 16 of the top 25 places of origin, including Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. With an increase of 25 percent to more than 8,700 students in the United States, Iran moved up from the 20th leading sender to number 15 this year. With the addition of Kuwait, at number 24, Russia is no longer among the top 25 senders, and Spain now becomes number 25, with a 2 percent increase to just over 5,000 students.

At the same time, there was a decline in the number of students from several major sending countries, including the second and third leading senders: India (down four percent for the second year) and South Korea (down two percent). Also showing declines this year were Taiwan (down 6 percent), Japan (down two percent—a lower rate of decline than in previous years), and Turkey (down 6 percent), as well as Nepal, Hong Kong, Thailand and Venezuela. The factors driving these declines likely include a mix of global and home country economic factors, growing higher education opportunities at home, and stronger employment opportunities at home after graduation.

Economic and Social Impact: The continued growth in international students coming to the U.S. for higher education has a significant positive economic impact on the United States. International students contribute more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Open Doors 2013 reports that about 72% percent of all international students receive the majority of their funds from sources outside of the United States, including personal and family sources as well as assistance from their home country governments or universities. Students from around the world who study in the United States also contribute to America’s scientific and technical research and bring international perspectives into U.S. classrooms, helping prepare American undergraduates for global careers, and often lead to longer-term business relationships and economic benefits.

Host States and Campuses: This increased international presence has been felt across the United States, with all of the top 20 host universities and the top ten host states hosting more international students than in the prior year. California hosted more than 100,000 international students for the second year in a row, followed by New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois. Among the top 10 destinations, Massachusetts, with a 13 percent increase, and Pennsylvania and Indiana, with about 10 percent increases, had the highest rates of growth. At the institutional level, the University of Southern California hosts the largest number of international students for the 12th year, followed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, New York University, and Columbia University. University of Pennsylvania and University of California – Berkeley were new to the top 20 list this year, replacing Harvard University and University of Texas – Austin. The universities that moved up the most in the top 20 were Arizona State University, up from 15 to 11, and University of Washington, up from 18 to 14. Even the universities that fell slightly on the list hosted more students than last year.

Metropolitan Areas: New York City is once again the top metropolitan area for international students, with a six percent increase. Six of the top 20 metropolitan areas had increases this year of more than 10 percent: Boston, Dallas, Seattle, San Diego, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.

U.S. Students Studying Abroad

Overview: In the 2011/12 academic year, 283,332 American students studied abroad for academic credit, an increase of three percent. Based on the slow but fairly steady increase in Open Doors numbers, American students have shown that they remain interested in gaining an international experience. Study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades, from only about 71,000 students in 1991/92. Many campus leaders have shown that they are committed to ensuring that large numbers of their students have an international experience before graduating, and Open Doors reported that 36 campuses had undergraduate study abroad participation rates of more than 70 percent of their student body.

Participation: Although the total number is at an all-time high, it is still the case that fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. undergraduate students (including community college students) will study abroad by the time they graduate. With more than 2.6 million undergraduate degrees awarded each year, the proportion of students that study abroad is not increasing, despite the efforts of campuses that are taking leadership roles.

Destinations: More U.S. students went to 18 of the top 25 destination countries for study abroad in the most recent year. Open Doors 2013 reports that the number of students going to Japan to study increased by 28 percent, as programs resumed there after being closed following the tsunami of March 2011.

The United Kingdom remains the leading destination for American students, followed by Italy, Spain, France and China—which remained the fifth largest host destination. There were significant increases in the number of Americans studying in several destinations outside Europe, primarily to places in Latin American, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru. Two percent more students studied in China and six percent more students studied in India than in the prior year. More Americans also studied in some of the European destinations, with nine percent more studying in Ireland, five percent more studying in the United Kingdom, and smaller increases in study abroad to France, Germany and Spain. There was a two percent drop in the number of students going to Italy after nine percent growth the previous year, and a 21 percent drop in students going to Greece following a seven percent drop the previous year. There were also declines in the number of American students going to Australia, Mexico, Israel, Chile, and Austria.


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