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International students in the US: slowing decline

The IIE's Open Doors 2005 report was released on November 14, 2005. Funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the report includes data on foreign student enrolment, on American students abroad, on the economic impact of foreign students on the U.S. economy, and more. Some of the main findings of the report include:

  • Over 565 000 foreign students were enrolled in the US in 2004/05. This is about one percent less than in the previous year. The slight decline has been attributed to factors like real and perceived difficulties in obtaining student visas, rising U.S. tuition costs, vigorous recruitment activities by other English-speaking nations and increasing capacity at educational institutions in the sending countries.
  •  The five leading sending countries - India, China, Korea, Japan and Canada – all experienced increases in 2005, and together account for almost half of the foreign students in the US. There was still a decline in students from the Middle East, although less steep than in the previous year (two percent, compared to nine percent in 2003/04). The decline was partially offset by a nine-percent increase in students from Turkey.
  •  The most popular fields reported a decline in enrolment: eight percent in Business and Management, two percent in Engineering and as much as 25 percent in IT.
  • The large universities reported an eight percent increase in foreign scholars, with especially high increases from the leading sending countries China, India and Korea.
  •  International students brought $ 13.3 billion to the US economy in 2004/05, spent on tuition, living expenses and related costs. Almost 70 percent receive the majority of their funds from family and personal sources.
  •  US study abroad increases by 9.6 percent, with higher interest in non-traditional destinations like China and India. The UK remains the number one destination. While more students go abroad, they stay for shorter periods: 56% chose programmes shorter than one semester, compared to only 6% who remain abroad for a full year.

The reported decline in international students is however countered by recent developments: a separate survey carried out by IIE, in collaboration with other organisations in the field, suggests an increase of 40 % in new enrolments for fall 2005. The results also support the outcomes of a survey carried out by CGS, which found that first-time enrolment at US graduate schools had been up one percent from 2004 to 2005.