Foreign students hit record highs

International students are flocking to the United States for college in record numbers, although the number studying at Yale remains relatively constant.

At Yale College, enrollment of international students has gone up slightly to 454 in the 2008-’09 academic year from 450 in the 2007-’08 academic year. But the overall number of international students in the United States increased by 8 percent to an all-time high of 671,616 in the 2008-’09 academic year, according to the 2009 Open Doors report, released Monday by the national research group the Institute of International Education (IIE). This is the largest percentage increase in international student enrollment since 1980-’81, and marks the third consecutive year of significant growth.

“It would not be surprising to me that enrollment trends at Yale might differ from national trends in several respects,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel wrote in an e-mail Monday. “Yale is one of the world’s three or four top research universities, and neither our faculty, programs or students, therefore, bear much resemblance to higher education as a whole.”

The data were based on a comprehensive survey of approximately 3,000 accredited colleges and universities, looking at international students at all levels of study. The largest growth was in undergraduate enrollment, which increased by 11 percent, compared to a 2 percent increase in international students enrolling at the graduate level. This growth was driven largely by increases in undergraduate students from China, the report said.

According to the report, India sent the most students to the United States for the eighth consecutive year, and enrollment of Indian students in the United States increased by 11 percent. China, the country that sends the second highest number of students to the United States, sent 21 percent more students this year than last year.

At Yale, however, Chinese international students outnumber Indian internationals, according to the Office of Institutional Research fact sheet. Nepal, Germany and Brazil all had significant increases in the numbers of students sent to the United States, while Thailand and Indonesia both saw decreases.

Judith A. McHale, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, pointed to the government’s network of 450 Education USA centers, advising organizations supported by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that help international students to navigate the American higher education system.

“We strongly encourage international students to study in the United States and are committed to helping them choose the American college or university that best meets their needs,” she said.

E. Goodman, President and CEO of the IIE, said the presence of international students on American campuses also benefits American students, who can learn to collaborate in a global society through exposure to new cultures.

International students contributed $17.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2008-’09 through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses, according to the report.

The report said schools in California attract the largest number of foreign students, followed by New York and Texas. For the eighth consecutive year, University of Southern California hosted the largest number of international students, this year reporting 7,482. Among Yale’s Ivy League peers, Columbia had the highest international student enrollment.

Kunal Lunawat ’11, president of the Yale International Students’ Organization, said he was pleased with the increase in international students at Yale, but he said the national increase means continued strain on the limited number of work permits provided to graduates.

“As more international students are getting accepted into Yale, there is an increasing demand for work visas after graduation,” Lunawat wrote in an e-mail. “Yet with limited authorizations, this demand is not being met, forcing students to pursue alternate career options. While this does not apply to all students, one can foresee a widening gap, if not dealt with soon.”

The report also noted that 8.5 percent more U.S. students studied abroad in the 2007-’08 academic year. Among leading destinations, China, Ireland, Austria and India saw notable increases in the numbers of American students studying abroad. Still, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France remain the leading destinations.

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