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Most of the students, grossly 31%, come from China. This is due primarily to the expansion of China’s middle class, which because of the increase in household wealth makes it possible for many Chinese families to afford the high costs associated with American education. The second largest number of students, 102,673 to be exact, comes from India, followed by South Korea, with over 68,000 students.
Once here, the foreign students are making the most out of their education. As per the Pew Research Center, International students make up more than half of the advanced degrees earned in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. After graduation, however, most of these students go back to their country of origin, either as a result of their own choosing or because immigration laws do not allow them to stay here.
Why then, would they come to the U.S to study at all? In many areas of the world, the American education system is perceived as being more prestigious, and of higher value and quality. In many countries, collegiate students are limited to what careers they may pursue as their area of study is often determined by rigorous exams. As a result, many foreign students are attracted to the prospect of an American education that allows them the freedom to study whatever they please.
For American colleges and universities, several of which due to lack of funding and low enrollment have been struggling financially, the influx is welcomed. There are currently 245 colleges and universities in the United States hosting 1,000 or more international students. When compared to local students, most international students pay higher tuition fees. Some schools even charge additional fees, such as foreign-student-specific academic and administrative service fees. The Institute of International Education reports that as per the Department of Commerce, international students contributed nearly $31 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2014-2015 academic school year. In 63.6% of the cases, the international student and/or his or her family funded the cost of tuition themselves.
In addition to financial profit, however, international students bring about diversity. It seems fit, then, that one of the most diverse cities in the world, New York City, leads the country in terms of the amount of foreign students it hosts. Most of these students can be found in New YorkUniversity and Columbia University, which rank number one and number three in the country, respectively, in international student enrollment. For our local students, this is a good thing. A recent study found that students that interact with international students have significantly higher skill development than students that do not. It seems to be a system in which everybody can benefit.
Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, March 2016