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While most U.S. higher education institutions saw increases in the number of foreign student enrollments, colleges offering associate degrees saw a 2-percent decrease, continuing a gradual drop for the third straight year, according to an annual report from the Institute of International Education.
The 2012 Open Doors study shows that in the 2011-12 academic year, 87,997 international students enrolled in associate-degree colleges, down from 89,853 the previous year. The number has been declining since it reached a high of 95,785 in 2008-09, according to the IIE data.
Baccalaureate colleges saw a nearly 6-percent increase, to 30,334 international students, while colleges and universities offering master’s degrees saw a 3-percent increase, to 131,943. The bulk of international students enrolled at doctorate and research institutions, which saw 486,906 students—nearly an 8-percent increase.
A quick take
More enrollment trends were revealed in a “snapshot” survey conducted by IIE in October. Participating in the survey were members of the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the American Council on Education, among others. Of the 561 responding institutions, community colleges represented 15.5 percent.
Overall, nearly 61 percent of the responding institutions said they’d seen an increase in international student enrollments in Fall 2012, compared to Fall 2011. Of the 88 community college survey respondents, about 41 percent reported an overall increase in international students, while nearly 35 percent reported declines and 24.4 percent reported level enrollments.
The broad picture
In the 2011-12 academic year, the number of foreign students at postsecondary institutions—who contribute nearly $23 billion to the U.S. economy—increased by 6 percent, according to IIE. It marks the sixth consecutive year of expansion in the total number of international students in U.S. higher education, and that’s a good thing, said Ann Stock, U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
“International education creates strong, lasting relationships between the U.S. and emerging leaders worldwide,” Stock said.
The report also found that 273,996 U.S. students studied abroad last year, an increase of 1 percent.
China continues to lead
Of the 764,495 international students counted, a quarter came from China. The number of Chinese students in the U.S. rose by 23 percent, to 194,029, according to the report. India sent 100,270 students, the second highest number, which was 3.5 percent lower than last year. While Saudi Arabia was fourth on the list, contributing 34,139 students, it had the largest increase, jumping more than 50 percent from last year.
Other big increases came from Iran, which sent nearly 7,000 students to the U.S.—a 24 percent increase from 2010–2011—and Venezuela, which sent 6,281 students and had an increase of more than 14 percent.
Economic, social impact
Another report released this week also emphasized the impact of international students from an economic aspect. For example, international students in California alone contributed more than $3.2 billion to the state’s economy through living expenses, tuition and fees, according to NAFSA, an association of international educators.
Education exchange advocates also touted the academic and social benefits of both international students studying in the U.S., and U.S. students studying abroad.
“Academic and intellectual exchange fuels innovation and prepares the next generation for global citizenship,” said IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman. “Today’s students will become future business and government leaders whose international experience will equip them to build a prosperous and more peaceful world.”
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