What international students want out of higher ed

Survey reveals why people study abroad

What do international students hope to get out of their time studying in the U.S.?

The Global Citizen Index, based on a survey conducted by Flywire, identified the top reasons people attend U.S. colleges and universities. To conduct the survey, PYMNTS.com built an online, confidential survey and sent it to current and former students from Indian, China, and South Korea who left their home countries to study. The about 620 respondents were asked why they traveled internationally to study, which degrees they sought, what their family backgrounds were like, how they financed school, and what influenced their decisions. Researchers also interviewed "representative global citizens" from China and India to get a more nuanced understanding of the survey results.

Researchers found that 93% of Indian respondents said they left their country to pursue a graduate degree, while 72% of South Korean and 61% of Chinese students reported seeking a bachelor's. Individuals from these three countries make up the largest shares of foreign students studying in the United States.

They also found that 91% of Indian students and 51% of Chinese students enrolled in study abroad programs to earn a degree in a specific field—mostly centered in STEM and business.

While 68% of Chinese respondents said receiving a better education was the most, or a very, important factor in studying abroad, 54% of Indian students said the most, or a very, important factor in studying abroad was the ability to experience a new culture.

Researchers also found improved career opportunities heavily played into students' decisions. Sixty-four percent of Indian respondents said pursuing a career they otherwise wouldn't have had access to was a very, or the most important factor in their decisions. 

How to expand international enrollment

Additionally, nearly half of Indian students worked while attending school to cover the costs. On average, household income is just $31,000 in India. Meanwhile, students from South Korea, where the average household income is about $96,000, are in a better position to fund their international educations.

Jarrett Carter of Education Dive writes that U.S. schools should market their professional degree programs and tracks graduate degrees when targeting potential international students. Offering financial aid, depending on which nation the students are coming from, may also increase enrollment, he writes. 

International student career development

Additionally, institution leaders should consider forging relationships with Chinese, Indian, and South Korean corporations to build internship opportunities and career pipelines for international students (Global Citizen Index, 2016; Carter, Education Dive, 7/26). 


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International-Student-Toolkit

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