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Foreign students in US at record high, China, India fuel boom

Twenty-seven percent of STEM students studying engineering in the U.S. are from India.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   17-11-2014
Students with Professor Vivek Wadhwa at The Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University which is a magnet for students from Asia. Photo courtesy: Duke University
Applications to U.S. colleges from international students has reached an all-time high, reaffirming the strength of U.S. institutions in an increasingly competitive market for full tuition paying foreign students. Another wave of Chinese and Indian students pushed the number of foreign students in America to a record high of nearly 900,000 during the 2013-14 school year, up 8 percent from the previous year, according to a report released on Monday by the Institute of International Education (IIE), in Washington.

India sends a significant number of students to study in the United States, second only to China. Students from China, India and South Korea now represent about half of all international students in the U.S., with the number from China and India on the uptick and the numbers from South Korea on the decline.

China sends the most students of any country — nearly 275,000 in the latest school year, up 17 percent from the year before. The number of students from India also increased, growing about 6 percent to 102,673 students after a three-year decline, the report found.

Indian students regard a U.S. degree as a badge of honor. But for many Indian parents, who partly or wholly fund the exercise, expense is the operative word. The weak Indian rupee has made it difficult for some Indian students to pursue their dreams.

"The Indian currency had become severely devalued against the dollar and many Indian students were hard hit by that," said Rajika Bhandari, report co-author and deputy vice president of research and evaluation at IIE.

"Closer to 2014 we saw the rupee stabilize a bit against the dollar," she added.

Although the rupee is not expected to slump back to its record low of 68.80 per dollar in August 2013, it is likely to struggle to gain any more over the next 12 months as a U.S. dollar rally gathers pace on hopes of a strong economic recovery. Most analysts expect a trading range of 60 to 62 (per dollar) for the rupee in the near term.

The average American college tuition and fees of $48,870 for upperclassmen is expensive for middle class Indian families.

On broadly the same lines as the “Open Doors” report, real time SEVIS data from October 2014 showed that the number of Indian students had ticked up to a total of 134,292 students. India has more students studying in the United States than any of other region be it Canada, Europe, South America or Australia.

“Students from India comprise more than 26 percent of the STEM student population in the United States,” said a report mining Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) data released by US immigration authorities.

  • Thirty-seven percent of students from India study at schools in California, Texas and New York.
  • Seventy-nine percent of students from India study in STEM fields.
  • Students from India flock to engineering and computer and information sciences and support services programs.
  • Twenty-seven percent of all STEM students studying engineering are from India.

The “Open Doors” report confirmed that within the U.S., 41 states saw increases in international students, with California, New York and Texas attracting the highest numbers. Among colleges, New York University (NYU) became the leading host university for international students, surpassing University of Southern California, which had been the leader for 12 years, according to the report. For the first time, NYU and three other universities enrolled more than 10,000 students. The others included University of Southern California, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign and Columbia University.

International student spending added more than $27 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most students – about 64 percent – paid for their education with personal or family funds. U.S. universities are looking to other countries for students who pay the full sticker price to attend. On an average, foreign and out of state students wind up paying an extra $23,000 a year and help U.S. colleges plug the budget gaps caused by reductions in state funding.

There was a 43 percent jump in students from Kuwait, a 22 percent increase among students from Brazil and a 21 percent increase of those from Saudi Arabia. All three countries offer national scholarships for students who want to study abroad, according to IIE.

The report ranked business and management, engineering, math and computer science, physical and life sciences and social studies as the most popular courses with international students.


Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site and a writer for Forbes India. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism at the University of Westminster, in London.



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Ayushi aluwalliya
This is good news especially considering how the potential of Indian youth are not explored completely because lack of infrastructure and opportunity in India.
02 December 2014

Mridula Sen
I think we have come far enough in time to understand that it is not a brain drain for Indian students to study in the United States. Instead of a brain drain it produces a redistribution of talent. Students from IIT come to the US for their Masters and PhD and stay on in Silicon Valley to start up companies which not only create jobs in the US but also Bangalore and Hyderabad. These Indian students find the start-up money in the Valley to grow businesses which ultimitely create jobs and employment in India. Others like Indra Nooyi and Satya Nadella find the opportunities and go on to become big CEOs in America making India proud!
19 November 2014

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