Open Doors 2011: International student enrollment up by 5%; contribute $21 billion to U.S. economy

The number of international students enrolled at U.S. universities has increased by five per cent, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors 2011 report, released yesterday at a briefing that kicked off this year's International Education Week. Open Doors 2011 also reveals that international students contributed more than $21 billion to the U.S. economy in 2010-11, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data.

The Open Doors report is released annually by IIE with the support of the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

A record 723,277 international students studied at U.S. institutions in 2010-11, marking a fifth consecutive year of increases, according to an IIE press release. The Open Doors 2011 report shows a particularly strong increase in the number of Chinese students in the U.S., with 158,000 enrolling at U.S. institutions in 2010-11, a 23 per cent increase compared to 2009-10. Comprising 22 per cent of the total international student body in the U.S., China is the leading sending country for the second year in a row, followed by India, South Korea, Canada, and Taiwan. The top three countries taken together represent almost half of the overall international enrollment in U.S. higher education.

IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman commented on the newest Open Doors numbers:

"It is positive news that our higher education institutions continue to excel in attracting students from all over the world, and in preparing American students to succeed in an increasingly global environment. Educational exchange in both directions furthers business and cultural ties between the United States and other countries."

In a video address on the occasion of International Education Week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the importance of international education and exchange:

"Study abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a young person's life. International students enrich classrooms and communities with their ideas, perspectives and cultures. And when they return home they bring new knowledge, new perspectives, and a deeper understanding of the world."

While celebrating the record number of international students in the U.S., Clinton noted that the number of American students studying abroad is still too low:

"Unfortunately, only one per cent of American students from 2 and 4 year institutions are studying abroad. So as we celebrate International Education Week this year, I'm asking all American students to think about expanding your own worldview by studying in another country."

Assistant Secretary (R) Ann Stock, who delivered the keynote at IIE's Open Doors briefing, echoed the Secretary's concern about the low number of American students abroad and said that "we need more students choosing to study abroad." Studying abroad allows students to "come back more globally aware and competent" and "armed with the knowledge they need to lead," Stock said.

With the exception of the academic year 2008-09, the number of American students studying abroad has been on the rise continually since these data have been tracked. 270,604 American students studied abroad in 2010-11, compared to 260,327 the previous year. While most U.S. students are still choosing traditional destinations in Western Europe, less traditional locations such as India, Israel, and Brazil are becoming more and more popular, Open Doors reveals.

Access Open Doors data here and an Open Doors Fast Facts sheet here.