China makes up largest share of foreign students in US

Updated: 2014-09-01 10:53

By Jack Freifelder in New York(China Daily USA)

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China remains by far the largest source country for foreign students coming to the US for higher education, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.

From 2008 to 2012, more than 1.1 million foreign students attended school in the US, and China comprised the largest portion of that group, with 285,000 students entering the US with F-1 student visas, showed the new study The Geography of Foreign Students in US Higher Education: Origins and Destinations on Aug 29.

During that time foreign students studying in the US contributed more than $21 billion in tuition and close to $13 billion in living costs to the American economy. But just 45 percent of these students extended their visas after graduation and got jobs in the US.

"Chinese students are coming to the US to study in fields that are highly sought out, and to get the skills to compete in this global economy," Neil G. Ruiz, an associate fellow at Brookings, who wrote the new study, told China Daily.

"China is special because the numbers are so large, but a lot of foreign students are coming from newly-emerging cities in China, like Nanjing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, etc," Ruiz said, "so Beijing and Shanghai are not the only cities that these students are coming from because of the high demand for an American education."

The report shows that two-thirds of foreign students are studying in "STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or business, management and marketing fields," compared to 48 percent of their US counterparts.

"America has a lot of top universities and the US takes in 21 percent of all foreign students studying abroad," Ruiz said. "Students will continue to want to come to the US because it is a center of research and development, and our universities have research facilities in all types of fields."

Foreign students attending colleges and universities in the United States bring significant amounts of money to the US economy, but more can be done to encourage their interest in remaining in the US post-graduation, the report says.

"In the short term, universities love foreign students because of the money they provide, but in the long term the local economies benefit from them if one or a few of them help to bridge with economies that are emerging in fast-growing Asia, or anywhere around the world," Ruiz told Inside Higher Education.

Ruiz said students attending US colleges and universities on the F-1 visa program hold the potential for forging greater economic connections between major US metropolitan regions and fast-growing cities in emerging markets, including China, India and South Korea.

Based on data from 2008 to 2012, Ruiz's report identifies areas in the US with the largest numbers of foreign students and measures the students' monetary contributions. The report surveyed 118 metropolitan areas, each of which is home to at least 1,500 students in higher education.

The three international cities with the highest percentage of students with F-1 visas in the US were Seoul, South Korea (56,503; 4.9 percent); Beijing (49,946; 4.3 percent) and Shanghai (29,145; 2.5 percent). The trio also accounted for upward of $5.3 billion in total spending between 2008 and 2012.

As part of the US student visa program, international students are granted the option of remaining in the US after graduation provided they enroll in an optional practical training (OPT) program. OPT allows for a work-related visa extension between 12 and 29 months depending on a an applicant's respective field of study.

Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education (IIE), a global not-for-profit educational organization, said exchanges at the collegiate level help promote mutual understanding between the world's two largest economies.

"China is both a major country for sending foreign students, but it's also becoming a larger player in terms of receiving too," Goodman said. "China takes the globalization and internationalization of higher education - in both directions - very seriously."

In the 2012-2013 academic year, nearly 820,000 international students opted to study abroad in the US - a 7 percent uptick year-over-year.

China makes up largest share of foreign students in US

(China Daily USA 09/01/2014 page2)