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Global Economics

Students From China and Saudi Arabia Flock to U.S. Colleges


The top four countries sending students to U.S. colleges and universities are China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia, according to a study from the Institute of International Education. Enrollments from China and Saudi Arabia are surging.

In just a decade, the number of students from China enrolled at U.S. colleges has nearly quadrupled. During the 2003-04 school year, 61,765 Chinese students studied in the U.S. During the most recent 2012-13 school year, 235,597 Chinese students did. In just one year, the number of Chinese undergrad and postgrad students in the U.S. jumped 21.4 percent.

Saudi Arabia sends far fewer college students to the U.S., with 44,566 enrolled during the 2012-2013 school year. But that represents a 30.5 percent increase from the previous school year. A decade ago, just 3,521 Saudi Arabian students were enrolled in U.S. colleges.

The number of students from Brazil, Iran, and Kuwait also grew by double-digit percentages in the last year. Meanwhile, enrollment in U.S. colleges among students from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and India all decreased slightly from a year ago. The study estimates that foreign university students in the U.S. cumulatively paid approximately $24 billion in tuition and living expenses in 2012-13.

Among American college and graduate students studying abroad, the top five destinations are the U.K., Italy, Spain, France, and China. The number of students majoring abroad in the humanities, fine arts, and foreign language all dipped slightly last year, while the number of Americans majoring in physical or life sciences, health sciences, and engineering all rose by double-digit percentages over the previous school year.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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