International students and their dependents contributed more than $20 billion to the U.S. economy last year as record numbers of foreigners enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities, reports to be released today show. The numbers of U.S. students earning college credit abroad also is on the rise.
The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities rose 4.7 percent to 723,277 during the 2010-11 academic year, says an annual report by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which has tracked data since 1949.
Enrollments of international students have overcome a four-year period of flat or declining growth that began in 2002-03 and reflected concerns about safety and U.S. immigration policies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Enrollments have been on the upswing since 2006-07 and grew 32% over the past decade, IIE data show.
The number of U.S. students earning college credit abroad also increased, by 3.9% in the 2009-10 academic year, the latest year for which data are available, IIE said. The previous year, the number of U.S. students going abroad had dipped slightly for the first time.
State Department officials viewed increases in both directions as evidence that earlier declines were short-term trends. "Young people who study abroad gain the global skills necessary to create solutions to 21st-century challenges," said Ann Stock, assistant secretary of State. "In turn, international students globalize our campuses and communities."
China, the top country of origin for international students, sent 157,558 undergraduate and graduate students to the USA, up 23 percent from the previous year.
Among the top five sending countries, which together account for more than half of all international students, enrollments from South Korea increased by 1.7 percent. But U.S. schools saw drops from India (down 1 percent), Canada (2.1 percent) and Taiwan (7 percent).
Year-to-year fluctuation among countries is typical, often dictated by factors such as the economic or political climate and natural disasters, IIE President Allan Goodman says.
According to the Commerce Department, international students contribute more than $21 billion to the U.S. economy through tuition and living expenses, which include room and board, supplies, transportation and health insurance and support for dependents.
An analysis of economic benefits published today by NAFSA: Association of International Educators provides a slightly more conservative estimate, a net of about $20.23 billion.
The analysis, conducted by Jason Baumgartner of Indiana University, found that nearly $28billion in spending by foreign students was offset by $7.7 billion in U.S. support such as funding from a U.S. college, the U.S. government or a private sponsor.
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