Data recently released in the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors Report show an increase in students from China attending US colleges and universities during the 2019/2020 academic year even as total international student numbers declined by 1.8% from the previous year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020, the number of international students in the United States declined as students scheduled to travel to the United States to study were unable to do so.
China has been the number one source of international students to the United States for the last decade. With nearly 373,000 students in the United States, China alone made up 35% of all US international students. Indo-Pacific countries made up six of the top eight places of origin for international students in the United States and 70% of all international students.
[schema_chart chart="pie-chart" data="187" axis="Region" series="2019/20 students"]
Besides China, only Taiwan saw an increase in student numbers among the top eight places of origin. India and South Korea both saw declines of over 4% from the previous year, while Vietnam and Japan saw decreases of 2.5% and 3% respectively.
Number of Students
Share of all International Students
Percent Change from Previous Academic Year
Data on US students studying abroad in the Indo-Pacific saw an increase to an all-time high of over 55,000 students in the 2018/2019 academic year. (NOTE: due to data reporting delays, these data are not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic)
European countries top the list of destinations for American students, but among Indo-Pacific countries China (7), Australia (8), and Japan (9) make the top 10 list. The number of US students in China peaked in 2011, but numbers have continued to increase in Australia and Japan. Only 16% of students from the United States studying abroad choose to go to Indo-Pacific countries.
For more complete information on US-Indo-Pacific educational exchange trends, check out our data on Asian students in the US by country and by US state, and data on US study abroad to the Indo-Pacific.
Caitlin Brophy is a Programs Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington.