International students were admitted to the universities of the United States of America (USA or US) in surging numbers last year, rebounding from a pandemic slump with the help of a 35 per cent jump in students coming from India, according to a study released today, November 13, Monday. Overall, the number of international students in the US grew by 12 per cent in the 2022-23 academic year, the largest single-year increase in more than 40 years, according to findings from the State Department and the non-profit Institute of International Education, as stated in a report by PTI.
More than one million students came from abroad, the most since the 2019-20 school year. Speaking on this, CEO of the Institute of International Education Allan E Goodman, said, “This reinforces that the US remains the destination of choice for international students wishing to study abroad, as it has been for more than a century.” To note, American colleges enrolled nearly 2,69,000 students from India, more than ever and second only to China. And most came for graduate programmes, often in Science, Technology and Business.
The State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary for academic exchange, Marianne Craven, said, “The US maintains a strong relationship with India on education, which I think is getting even stronger and even more connected.”
China still accounted for the most foreign students in the US with over 2,90,000 students in number, but its numbers decreased for the third consecutive year. It reflects a gradual shift. After years of booming demand from China, interest has ebbed amid chilly international relations and increased competition from universities in the United Kingdom and Canada, PTI reported.
Officials behind the new study also blame prolonged travel restrictions in Asia during the pandemic. At the same time, US universities have focused on recruiting in India, hoping to tap a growing population that the United Nations predicted would overtake China as the world’s largest this year.
Indian students outnumber China
Students from India now outnumber those from China in 24 US states, including Illinois, Texas and Michigan, which rank among the top destinations for international students. For the second consecutive year, America’s graduate programmes were the main attraction for international students, the study finds.
Graduate enrollment grew by 21 per cent, while undergraduate numbers ticked up by 1 per cent. It reverses a trend from the previous decade, which saw undergraduates come in larger numbers. Additionally, much of last year’s growth is credited to Math and Computer Science programmes, which attracted more students than any other subject and saw a 20 per cent boost in enrollment over the previous year. Following these programmes, Engineering and Business programmes are also attractive to students.
Taken together, those three fields account for more than half of all international students in the United States. The surge nearly brought international numbers back to their pre-pandemic highs, with a peak of almost 1.1 million students in 2018. Moreover, enrollment fell precipitously over the following two years as COVID-19 stifled academic exchange.
Rebound to appear again?
The rebound appears to be continuing, with an 8 per cent increase in international enrollment this fall, according to a smaller survey meant to give a snapshot of recent trends. Overall, international students made up just 5.6 per cent of all college students in the 2022-23 year, but they play an outsize role in US higher education.
University leaders say they’re important for global exchange, and they’re also important for revenue as international students are usually charged higher tuition rates, effectively subsidising college for US students. Behind China and India, the nations sending the most students to the US were South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan and Nigeria.
Last school year saw a record number of students come from Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, India, Italy, Nepal, Pakistan and Spain. While more students come from abroad, many colleges are struggling to attract students at home.
The total enrollment across all colleges has stayed in a slump in the wake of pandemic decreases, and freshman enrollment decreased by 3.6 per cent in fall 2023, as per a separate study by the National Student Clearinghouse, as stated in a report by PTI.