April, 2003
Recent Data Show Foreign Student Enrollment Remains High

According to the Institute of International Education's annual report Open Doors, the enrollment of foreign students in U.S. colleges and universities is on the rise. This year's data collection reflects numbers taken in the late fall of the 2001-2002 academic year, so the numbers do take into account the number of students who left the States after the September 11 attack. Next fall's numbers should reflect whether foreign student enrollment is deterred by new rules, scrutiny, and visa troubles.

High foreign enrollment can only be good news according to the Association of International Educators' (NAFSA) Strategic Task Force on International Student Access. NAFSA's report "In America's Interest: Welcoming International Students" concludes that the U.S. must continue to foster relationships with study from foreign students, characterizing friendships of those who know the U.S. well because they have been educated here as "our greatest foreign policy asset."


Foreign Enrollment in the U.S.

  • In 2001-2, the U.S. had 582,996 foreign students enrolled in its colleges and universities-a 6.4 percent increase from the previous year.

  • India has surpassed China as the country of origin for the largest number of students studying in the United States; Indian students increased by 22.3 percent.

  • In its report, NAFSA estimates that foreign students contributed almost 12 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2001-02 academic year.

  • The net contribution from foreign students to the U.S. economy increased 8.2 percent in the past year, mostly due to their increased enrollment.

  • Top fields of study from international students include business and management (19.7 percent), engineering (15.1 percent), and mathematics and computer science (13.2 percent).

  • New York, Los Angeles, and Boston are the cities that host the highest numbers of foreign students; University of Southern California, New York University, and Columbia University are the leading institutions in that category.

  • The top three sources foreign students use to pay for a U.S. education, includes the students' personal or family resources (67.9 percent); the institution where they are enrolled (20.6 percent); and from their home government (3.7 percent).

U.S. Students Studying Abroad

  • The number of students from the States studying abroad in 2000-1 has increased steadily-the amount grew by 7.3 percent in the previous year.*

  • The most popular destination for U.S. students studying abroad is the United Kingdom; nearly 20 percent of them enroll there, followed by Italy (10.5 percent), Spain (10.4 percent), and France (7.7 percent).

  • The percentages of those studying in Europe are starting to decline however, from 79.6 percent in 1986 to 63 percent in 2001. Latin America, Asia and Africa are climbing as popular study-abroad destinations.


  • The percentage of foreign students studying in the
    U. S. has risen from 1.4 percent in 1955 to 4.3 percent in 2002.
  • After India and China, the largest foreign enrollments come from the Republic of Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, and Thailand.

  • In 2000-1, 154,168 U.S. students study abroad-a 7.4 percent increase from the previous year.

You may find the Open Doors report at www.opendoors.iienetwork.org.

To download a copy of NAFSA's "In America's Interest," visit www.nafsa.org/content/PublicPolicy/stf/inamericasinterest.htm.

*The data about U.S. student studying abroad reflects the 2000-01 academic year, so the full impact of the September 11 attacks remains to be seen.