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Foreign Students in U.S. High School Diploma Programs Tripled

International students enrolled in U.S. high schools to earn a diploma have more than tripled in number since 2004, outpacing exchange students, according to the Institute of International Education.

Foreign students topped 73,000 in 2013 and two-thirds of them were enrolled for a full diploma, the New York-based organization said in a report released today. Students from China accounted for 46 percent of those in degree programs, followed by South Koreans.

The growth in diploma seekers far exceeded the 15 percent increase in exchange students -- those who come for short-term programs -- a sign that students and families believe graduating from a U.S. high school will help them stand out to admissions officers at elite U.S. universities, the report said.

“They are coming to high schools to really prepare themselves for U.S. higher education,” said Christine Farrugia, who wrote report. “They are concerned about a very thorough preparation in the English language.”

The jump in the number of international students, especially from East Asia, mimics the trend of increasing foreign enrollment in higher education, which reached a record of 819,644 students in 2013, up 45 percent from 2004, according to IIE data. The number of college students from China rose almost fourfold in the period.

Of the 24,000 international students in semester- or year-abroad exchange programs, about two-thirds came from Europe.

Ninety-five percent of international high school students in diploma programs were enrolled in private U.S. schools, largely because of visa regulations that limit them to one year of study in public schools.

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