Chinese college students in US exceed 300,000

Updated: 2015-11-16 06:24

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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China has widened its lead in the number of international students studying at US colleges and universities in the 2014-15 academic year, according to a report to be released on Monday.

For the first time, the number of Chinese mainland students overseas exceeded 300,000, at 304,040, a 10.8 percent increase over the previous academic year.

The numbers are in the 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

It means that Chinese mainland students now account for 31.2 percent of the total 974,926 international students in US colleges and universities in the 2014-15 academic year.

After Chinese mainland students, the other top countries are India (132,888), South Korea (63,710), Saudi Arabia (59,945) and Canada (27,240).

China’s Taiwan (20,993) and Hong Kong (8,012) ranked seventh and 20th respectively in the number of international students in the US. India registered the strongest growth this year, rising 29.4 percent.

The report noted that the 10 percent increase in international students at US colleges and universities was the highest in 35 years.

Overall, India, China and Brazil accounted for most of the growth in international students on US campuses in the current academic year.

The report shows that China and India accounted for 67 percent of the increase in international students and now make up nearly 45 percent of all international students in US higher education.

The increase in undergraduate students from the Chinese mainland, which drove overall numbers in recent years, was at a lower growth rate in 2014-15 than in previous years, according to the report. However, 2014-15 was the first academic year that Chinese undergraduates outnumbered Chinese graduate students.

Of the Chinese mainland students, 41 percent were undergraduates, 39.6 percent graduate students, 5.3 percent other and 14.2 percent under OPT (optional practical training).

International students in all 50 US states contributed more than $30 billion to the US economy in 2014, according to the US Department of Commerce. That includes $9.8 billion contributed by students from the Chinese mainland.

Meanwhile, the Open Doors report found that the number of US students studying abroad grew 5 percent in 2013-14, the highest growth rate since before the 2008 economic downturn.

The report pointed out that while study abroad by American students has more than tripled in the last two decades, reaching a high of 304,467, still only about 10 percent of US students study abroad before graduating.

“We are excited to see that record numbers of students are taking advantage of international education opportunities, and we applaud the efforts of US higher education as we work together to increase the number of American students who study abroad,” Evan Ryan, assistant secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said in a press release.

“It is critical that we continue to make study abroad more accessible,” he said. “These exchanges strengthen ties between the United States and countries around the world. By increasing accessibility to study abroad, we are investing in our future and providing a forum to solve global challenges.”

“International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century education,” said IIE President Allan Goodman. “Studying abroad is one of the best ways for students to gain the international experience necessary to succeed in today's global workforce. And studying in another country prepares students to be real contributors to working across borders to address key issues in the world we share.”

Britain, Italy, Spain, France and China were the top five destinations for US students studying abroad, but the number of US students in China dropped 4.5 percent in the 2013-14 academic year to 13,763.

US President Barack Obama announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative when he visited China in November 2009, with a goal of sending 100,000 American students to China in the following four years.

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the US in late September, Obama announced the 1 Million Strong initiative, to expand to 1 million the number of US students studying Mandarin by 2020.

According to the Open Doors report, 44 US states plus the District of Columbia hosted more international students compared with the previous year, with the top five host states being California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois.

New York University was the top host university for the second consecutive year. The eight schools that hosted more than 10,000 international students were: New York University, University of Southern California, Columbia University, Arizona State University, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, Northeastern University, Purdue University-West Lafayette and University of California-Los Angeles.