Open Doors 2014: International students contribute $27 billion to U.S. economy, numbers of international and U.S. students abroad at record high

The number of international students studying in the U.S. is at a record high, as is the number of American students studying overseas, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) 2014 Open Doors report, released this morning on the occasion of the 15th annual celebration of International Education Week. The economic contribution of international students in the U.S. has also increased from $24 billion (2012) to $26.8 billion (2013), according to a recent economic analysis by NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Key findings from the 2014 Open Doors report and press release include:

  • A record high of 886,052 international students from over 200 countries studying at U.S. institutions, keeping the U.S. at its top host country spot.
    • This marks an 8.1 per cent increase in the number of international students in the U.S.
  • A record high of 289,408 American students studying abroad for academic credit in 2012-2013.
    • This marks an increase of 2 per cent over the previous year.

The top five most popular destinations for American students studying abroad remained the same as 2011-12 (United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and France); however, the report did note that study abroad rates to Europe have stagnated, while “less traditional” locations have seen a various rates of growth. Among the destinations experiencing an increase in American students are South Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan.

The Open Doors report further notes a 20 per cent increase in international student enrollment in the U.S. from the Middle East and North Africa, making the MENA region the second largest sending region of international students, pushing Europe to the number three spot. Asia remains the largest sending region and China, India, and South Korea still account for almost half of all international students in the U.S., which is consistent with past years.

At the Open Doors briefing, IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman contextualized the importance of the growth in international student mobility captured in the Open Doors report:

"International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century education."

Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan, echoed Dr. Goodman’s sentiments in her keynote address, emphasizing:

"We encourage U.S. students and students around the world to build their own bridges by studying abroad.”

Reflecting on the progress international education has made in recent decades, Rajika Bhandari, Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation at IIE, stressed that over the past 20 years, the number of American students abroad has more than tripled, and the number of international students studying in the U.S. has grown by 72.1 per cent. IIE’s Senior Counselor to the President Peggy Blumenthal added that the U.S. is uniquely positioned because it has “enormous capacity” for growth, citing that currently 9 per cent of American students study abroad and international students make up just 4.2 per cent of the overall student population on U.S. campuses.

Video remarks by Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the occasion of the 2014 International Education Week are available here.