Open Doors 2012: International student enrollment in U.S., number of Americans studying abroad, both at record highs

The number of international students enrolled at U.S. universities has increased by 5.7 per cent, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors 2012 report, released today at a briefing that kicked off this year's International Education Week. Open Doors 2012 also reveals that international students contributed more than $22.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2011-12, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data.

The Open Doors report is released annually by IIE with the support of the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). 

A record 764,495 international students studied at U.S. institutions in 2012-11, marking a sixth consecutive year of increases, according to an IIE press release. The Open Doors 2012 report shows a similarly strong increase in the number of “new” international students: first-time enrollments were up more than seven per cent from the previous year. 

Much of this growth is again driven by strong increases in the number of students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level. Chinese student enrollments increased by 23 per cent in total and by 31 per cent at the undergraduate level (for a total of just over 194,000 students). Comprising 25.4 per cent of the total international student body in the U.S., China is the leading sending country for the third year in a row, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. Saudi Arabia is a new entry to the top five (bumping Taiwan to number 6). This surge in undergraduate students from Saudi Arabia in the U.S. comes as a result of scholarships funded by the Saudi government, and helps explain why international undergraduates studying in the United States now outnumber international graduate students, for the first time in 12 years.

IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman commented on the importance of the increases seen in the newest Open Doors numbers:

“Academic and intellectual exchange fuels innovation and prepares the next generation for global citizenship. Today’s students will become future business and government leaders whose international experience will equip them to build a prosperous and more peaceful world.”

Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock, who delivered the keynote address at today’s Open Doors briefing, echoed Dr. Goodman’s comments, saying:

“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. International education creates strong, lasting relationships between the U.S. and emerging leaders worldwide. Students return home with new perspectives and a global skill set that will allow them to build more prosperous, stable societies.”

Secretary Stock also noted, “The U.S. can and must make study abroad a reality for more American students.” To this end, the number of American students studying abroad continues to rise, though at a slower pace than the number of international students coming to the U.S. 273,996 American students studied abroad in 2010-11, a 1.3 per cent increase from the previous year. The United Kingdom remains the leading destination for American students, followed by Italy, Spain, France, and China—which remained the fifth largest host destination for the fifth year in a row. There were significant increases, however, in the number of Americans studying in several “non-traditional” destinations outside Europe: Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, and South Korea. 

The IIE Open Doors briefing this morning also saw the release of two videos on the occasion of International Education Week:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged American students to set off on their own adventures and study abroad: “We’ve always recognized the power of study abroad to build bridges of understanding… To those students who have yet to study abroad, I urge you to stretch your boundaries and your imaginations and set off on your own adventures. Study abroad can be one of the most rewarding and most enlightening experiences of your life.”

ECA unveiled its “crowd-sourced” video celebrating the power of international education. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Program Meghann Curtis said, ECA put out a call on Twitter for American and international students alike to send in photos of them holding a sign that noted where they are from and where they were studying. The response was overwhelming, and this video was the result.