Over 50% of International students studying in the US come from China, India, and Sout Korea. Image: Open Doors/IIE

Nearly 900,000 International Students Study in the US

Asia ASEAN Japan Korea China India Taiwan

During the 2013/2014 academic year there were 886,052 international students studying in the US, an 8.1% increase from the previous year. The Institution of International Education just released their annual Open Doors data, which is a comprehensive source on international students studying in the US, and US students studying abroad.

Over 50% of international students studying in the US come from China, India, and South Korea, the top three countries of origin. Asian countries make up six of the top ten countries of origin for international students in the US, with Taiwan at sixth place, Japan at seventh, and Vietnam at eighth. Chinese students alone represent 31% of the total international student population, numbering nearly 275,000 -- a 16.5% increase from the previous year. Overall, international students contributed over $27 billion dollars to the US economy in 2013/14.

Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Kuwait, and Iran had a larger percentage increase than China, but they still send far fewer students. India sends the second most students, 11.6% of the total, at a growth rate of 6.1% from the previous year. One reason China’s growth may be so explosive, while India’s is slowing down, is the rising value of the Chinese yuan, and the falling value of the Indian rupee. This has made international study cheaper for Chinese students and more expensive for Indian students.

The number of international undergraduates grew by 9%, while the number of graduate students only grew 6%. In 2005, only 65 Chinese students attended private American high schools, and by 2011 that number had grown 6,725. Many of those who attend high school in the US also go on to American universities, which might be contributing to the faster rate of growth in international undergraduates.

California, New York, and Texas host the most international students, respectively, in large part due to attendance at the University of Southern California, New York University, and the University of Texas – Dallas. All three of these Universities are in the top 20 nationally in terms of international student population.

The US does not reciprocate with as many students studying in Asia. China is the 5th most popular destination for Americans students abroad, with European countries representing the top four. In the 2013/14 school year, 14,000 American students studied in China, 3.2% less than the previous year. Japan is ranked 10th with nearly 6,000 American students, and experienced 9% growth from the previous year.

In April 2014, the US and Japan agreed to double two-way student exchange by 2020. Organizations in the US are working to increase the number of American students studying abroad in different regions of Asia, such as the 100 Thousand Strong Foundation which focuses on China, and the Kakehashi Project which sends students to Japan.

Ethan Kannel is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a junior at Cornell University