Led by enrollments from Asian countries, the number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities rose 5 percent during the 2010-2011 school year, according to a recently released Institute of International Education report.
Enrollment of Chinese students reached 157,558 in 2010-2011, which represented a 23 percent increase from the previous year. Of the 10 countries that sent the most college students to the United States last year, six were located in Asia. India took the No. 2 ranking behind China, followed by South Korea at No. 3, Taiwan at No. 5, Japan at No. 7 and Vietnam at No. 8. Canada (4), Saudi Arabia (6), Mexico (9) and Turkey (10) rounded out the top 10.
The total number of international students last year – 723,277 – was 32 percent greater than the number a decade ago, according to the IIE. Reporting on these numbers, USA Today noted that student visa applications dropped after the attacks of September 11, 2001, which resulted in tightened immigration policies.
Perhaps reflecting the changed atmosphere since 2001, last year saw a significant volume of enrollments from nations with contentious diplomatic relations with the United States. The number of students from Saudi Arabia rose 44 percent from 2009-2010, while enrollment from Iran increased 19 percent and Venezualan enrollment went up 11 percent.
Recently, business and academic leaders have called on the government to reform certain U.S. visa policies to enable more international students to remain in the country after graduation.
In June, the Business Roundtable and Harvard University co-hosted an event at which a senior adviser to President Barack Obama said the administration wants to encourage highly skilled graduates to settle in the United States. Also that month, U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren of California introduced a “green cards for grads” bill, providing for an expedited route to legal residency for international students who earn an advanced degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics field.