Foreign Enrollment in U.S. Universities Hits All-Time High Thanks to China, Saudi Arabia

Foreign Enrollment in U.S. Universities Hits All-Time High Thanks to China, Saudi Arabia

American universities have increasingly begun to reach out to international students as foreign enrollment reaches an all-time high. The international students, the Bergen Record reports, pay higher tuition than in-state students, and most are now coming in from China and Saudi Arabia.

New Jersey’s Bergen Record uses data from the Institution of International Education, which releases an annual study supported by the U.S. Department of State on the number of foreign students that enter American colleges explore just why American universities have become so attractive to foreign students. 

The data, released late last year, shows that there was a 7.2% increase in the number of international students between the 2012 and 2013 school years, and a 40% increase in the past decade. Forty-nine percent of those students come from the top three countries outsourcing education to the United States: China, India, and South Korea. Nineteen percent of foreign students at American universities are Chinese, 12% are from India, 9% are from South Korea, and 5% from Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Arabia in particular has made significant leaps in sending students to study in the United States, thanks to the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program. The program is a recent development meant to feed the employee needs of Saudi government officials and those in the private sector. As the official website explains, “academic disciplines and scholarships are selected on the needs of government ministries, national corporations and the private sector.” The more job openings Saudi companies have in a field, the more students the government will pay to send abroad, usually to the United States, to educate themselves in that field.

In New Jersey, the Record reports that such programs are catching the eye of academic recruiters who seek to bring in more international students. “Private schools like Fairleigh [Dickinson, a small university in New Jersey] have courted international students as a demographic decline in the college age population that began in 2009 has led to challenges in maintaining enrollment,” the paper explains, “…but even public colleges and universities — which in New Jersey are at capacity and have waiting lists — solicit foreign students, because they pay the out-of-state tuition rate, which is about double that for residents.”

Nationally, the international student population is almost evenly distributed nationwide, with California significantly underrepresented. Four of the top ten schools with the most foreign students are in the Northeast; two in Florida; two in the Midwest, and the University of Tulsa and University of San Francisco rounding out the list.