International student enrollment rises again, but trend may not continue

Survey finds 16.5% increase in Chinese undergrads for 2013-2014

A record number of Chinese undergraduate students came to the United States to study last year, but experts say a growing domestic education sector may hamper growth in the future, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The number of Chinese undergraduates increased 16.5% last year, helping nudge overall foreign undergraduate enrollment up by 8%, according a new report from the Institute for International Education (IIE). However, the overall influx of Chinese students into the U.S. may be preparing to slow, with the number of graduate students declining this year for the first time in decades.

International graduate student demographics are changing, too

Scott Manning, dean of global programs at Susquehanna University, says significant investment in Chinese universities may curb U.S. enrollments. He notes that one of Susquehanna's partner schools in China plans to more than double its enrollment to 10,000 students—by building an island for a new campus. Growing respect for domestic graduates in China also will affect U.S. recruitment, says Philip Altbach, director of Boston College's Center for International Higher Education.

Rajikla Bhandari, deputy vice president for research at IEE, explains that "China as a country has seen a much faster expansion of its own higher education sector establishing many world class universities," which may be contributing to the decline in graduate students.

A worrying trend for U.S. universities

Students from abroad have provided an important financial lifeline to American universities, which are facing declining domestic enrollments and tightening budgets. International students often pay full tuition and additional fees to attend school in the U.S.

EAB insight: Grow enrollment by building pathways for new student segments

Overall, international students contributed $27 billion to the U.S. economy last year—and several states have created organizations specifically to attract students from overseas.

For now, international enrollments continue to grow—making up 4.2% of all undergraduate enrollments last year, up from 3.9% in 2012-2013. Countries like Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have helped bolster international enrollments by dramatically increasing the number of students which study in the U.S.—often by offering generous scholarships to domestic students who choose to study abroad.

Manning welcomes the new international students, pointing out the long-term benefits of their arrival: "the worst economic news would be if they don’t come because then they will be less likely to live here and join the workforce" (Belkin, Wall Street Journal, 11/17).

Supporting international students on campus

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