Trends in International Students at US Colleges

The U.S. enrolled the highest number of international students in its history during the 2012-2013 school year, with China as the top source. For the first time, the number of international undergrads exceeds the number of international grad students on US campuses.

819,644 undergraduate and graduate students from other countries were enrolled in 2012-2013,  40% more than 10 years ago, according  to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual survey “2013 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange.”

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Much of the increase in international students enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities comes from China. The number of Chinese students enrolled increased to 26 percent of all international students at the undergraduate level and 21% overall (undergraduate and graduate combined).

Many Chinese students come to study in the U.S. because they are eager to develop their own views and experience a variety of academic opportunities, according to a US News article, “U.S. Sees Record Numbers of International College Students.” Yige Li, a freshman at Westminster College and originally from Beijing, China, says, “Many students in China have to decide their major before entering into college. They don’t have any more chances to discover what their views are and what kinds of opportunities they have.” She values that the U.S. universities provide freedom for students to choose their own paths.

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The Open Doors Report identifies California and New York as the top states for international student enrollment, followed by Texas, Massachusetts, and Illinois. The University of Southern California has led the enrollment numbers for the past 12 years, with the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, New York University, Columbia University and UCLA not far behind. See chart below.

Institution

City, State

International Student Total

University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA

9,840

University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL

9,804

Purdue University West Lafayette, IN

9,509

New York University New York, NY

9,362

Columbia University New York, NY

8,797

University of California – Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA

8,424

Northeastern University Boston, MA

7,705

University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI

6,827

Michigan State University East Lansing, MI

6,759

Penn State University – University Park University Park, PA

6,693

Arizona State University Tempe, AZ

6,645

Boston University Boston, MA

6,615

Indiana University – Bloomington Bloomington, IN

6,547

University of Washington Seattle, WA

6,491

Ohio State University – Main Campus Columbua, OH

6,478

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN

6,178

University of Florida Gainesville, FL

5,961

SUNY University at Buffalo Buffalo, NY

5,804

University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA

5,751

University of California – Berkeley Berkeley, CA

5,632

University of Texas – Austin Austin, TX

5,481

University of Wisconsin – Madison Madison, WI

5,291

University of Texas – Dallas Richardson, TX

5,193

Texas A&M University College Station, TX

5,149

Harvard University Cambridge, MA

5,131

While international students can benefit greatly from studying in the U.S., their presence can also add to the experience of the American students on campus. The director of the Office of International Advancement at University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign’s says, “The international students are incredibly talented. They bring a different perspective in the classroom and a great amount of cultural diversity to campus.”

During the NJACAC Fall 2013 Conference, Janet Rapelye, Dean of Admission at Princeton University presented a study of international demographic trends in US college attendance. She reinforced that the experience of students from all over the world studying together and living together is vital, and concluded that “our collective future depends on our ability to educate students to find commonality not differences.”

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