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The Institute of International Education (IIE), together with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has released the latest news on international students in the United States and U.S. students studying abroad in the 2016 Open Doors® Report on International Educational Exchange. The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities surpassed one million for the first time during the 2015-16 academic year—an increase of seven percent from the previous year marks a new high, and boosts the representation of international learners to a five percent of the total student population at U.S. institutions.
Over a third of international students studied engineering, math or computer science, and 14 percent engaged in Optional Practical Training (OPT), including many in STEM disciplines. The growth in international STEM students is likely connected to the 25 percent increase in students from India, over three quarters pursuing study in these fields. Open Doors also reports that more than 313,000 U.S. students received credit for study abroad during 2014-15, an increase of nearly three percent. The Open Doors findings reflect that students study abroad in part to gain international experience that can be applied in their careers, and that an increasing number of U.S. students—over 22,000 in 2014-15—participated in non-credit work, internships and volunteering abroad to gain practical skills.
Europe continues to host more than half of all for U.S. students going abroad, with about a third choosing the United Kingdom, Italy, or Spain in 2014-15 as study destinations. However, students were increasingly drawn to countries which reflect how our world is changing, such as Cuba and Mexico, as well as Greece, which experienced, with an 18 percent increase, the highest rate of growth among top study abroad destinations. Saharan Africa’s Ebola crisis is likely to have deterred U.S. students to pursue studies in the region.
“We need to empower more of America’s future leaders to experience the world beyond our borders,” said Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. “The Open Doors findings show that international students value the quality, diversity and strong reputation of U.S. institutions (...) The more we can open doors to other cultures for our students, the better off our country and our world will be.” said IIE President Allan Goodman.
Despite the overall rise in the international student population in the U.S. and a shrinking gender gap, Open Doors shows that the gender gap among international students has widened slightly over the past two years: only 43 percent incoming students during 2015-16 were women, down from 45 percent five years ago, likely because fewer women tend to study in STEM fields. Women continue to make up 67 percent of the U.S. outgoing study abroad population. The racial and ethnic diversity has improved modestly since 2004-05, with 27 percent of U.S. students studying abroad in 2014-15 belonging to these minorities. About 5 percent of those who studied abroad were people with disabilities.To access the new data and background information to help explain the trends, you may go to www.iie.org/opendoors. The print publication will be available in March 2017 and for Pre-Order