Foreign student enrollment in American colleges doubles since Great Recession

Foreign student enrollment in American colleges doubles since Great Recession

The number of foreign students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled since the Great Recession, according to a new study.

The Pew Research Center survey shows nearly 364,000 foreign students with F-1 visas enrolled at American institutions of higher education in 2016, up from 179,000 in 2008, an increase of 104 percent. That far outpaces the overall rate of enrollment growth at American universities, which is just 3.4 percent over that span.

The trend is especially pronounced at public universities, where the number of foreign students has increased from 101,000 to 209,000 since the Great Recession, up 107 percent. Private schools, meanwhile, have experienced 97 percent growth in foreign student enrollment since 2008.

American enrollment in public universities since 2008 has declined by less than 1 percent, but has increased by 22 percent at private schools.

The data indicate that American universities are increasingly relying on international students, who tend to pay full tuition rates, to make ends meet.

Spending by foreign students at American institutions of higher learning has grown from $5.5 billion to $15.5 billion since 2008, an increase of 184 percent. At public universities, spending by foreign students has gone up nearly 214 percent, from $2.5 billion to $7.8 billion.

Foreign students are increasingly pursuing bachelor’s degrees at public universities, the study shows, even though master’s degrees are still the most common type of degree pursued by the cohort. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of foreign students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a public university increased by 151 percent, compared to 3 percent overall growth.

In the years immediately preceding the Great Recession, from 2004 to 2007, foreign enrollment in American universities increased by a modest 20 percent, while overall U.S. enrollment increased by 7.2 percent.

Chinese students account for a plurality, 30 percent, of all foreign enrollment at American colleges. Students from India account for 18 percent of all foreign students, followed by South Korean students at 6 percent.

Read more