Amid a global academic revival, US colleges have witnessed a vibrant resurgence in international student numbers, with India taking the lead with a remarkable 35% surge, signaling the largest yearly increase in over four decades.
An increase in students from India has contributed to an increase in foreign enrollment at US universities. After experiencing a decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of students enrolled in US universities last year (2022) and this year (2023). The US Embassy in India reports that the number of students from India increased by 35% in 2023. Overall, according to data from the State Department and the nonprofit Institute of International Education, the number of foreign students enrolled at US universities increased by 12% in the 2022–2023 academic year, marking the highest single-year growth in over 40 years. The largest number of international students since the 2019–20 academic year was over one million.
The math and computer science programs, which drew more students than any other subject and witnessed a 20% increase in enrollment over the prior year, are responsible for this year's gain. Business and engineering trailed behind. When combined, the three fields account for over half of all Indian students studying in the US.
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Exchanges, Marianne Craven told the Washington Post recently, "I think our governments, the university sector, and other stakeholders are getting even stronger and more connected between the US and India on education.” Among the many factors that attract Indian students, according to Craven, are the "top-notch faculty in the US colleges and universities."
International students, who frequently pay full or almost full tuition, are a vital source of funding for colleges and institutions. According to estimates from the federal government, they contribute around $38 billion to the economy annually. They also offer long-lasting proof of the international renown of American universities committed to instruction and research. Arriving in a nation where 4.5 million Indians live abroad, students from India take advantage of classes taught in English, which is also a language that is widely used in India. Numerous Indian students claim that the country's prestigious colleges and varied student body attracted them to the United States. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023 list sixteen American universities among the top 25 in the world. "The decision to study abroad, and your choice of the United States, represents a valuable investment by you and your families," American Ambassador Eric Garcetti said in a statement in response to the record number of Indian students studying in the US. He added: “We are excited to balance these historic figures as well. Equal representation of women in academic pursuits in the US is something we aim to achieve, as is an increase in US students visiting India to take advantage of its many offerings.”
As international students continue to be a vital economic and cultural asset, the trajectory of Indian student enrollment reaffirms the enduring strength and attractiveness of American higher education. The record-breaking numbers also highlight the shared commitment to educational excellence and cross-cultural collaboration.
Shubhankar Agarwal is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington, DC. He is a graduate student at American University’s School of International Service, where he is focusing on global governance, economic, and gender issues in the Indo-Pacific region.