WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of foreign exchange students studying at U.S. colleges and universities is at a record high, with nearly one-third coming from China.
A report by the Institute of International Education, in partnership with the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said nearly 900,000 international students were studying in the U.S. during the 2013-14 school year, up 8 percent from a year earlier.
A burgeoning middle class combined with a view that America has quality colleges and universities are factors cited to be pushing the demand from China, Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, which were among the countries that have seen double-digit gains in the percentage of students coming to the United States to study. Government-funded scholarships have likely contributed to the growth.
There was a nearly 17 percent increase in the number of Chinese students.
In absolute numbers of students, the top countries of origin after China were India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
The United States hosts more of the world's 4.5 million globally mobile higher education students than any other country, but just a little more than 4 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students are international students.
In addition to contributing billions to the U.S. economy, study-abroad programs strengthen ties "necessary to solve global challenges," Evan Ryan, a State Department official, told reporters.
A record number of Americans are studying abroad, although their stints overseas tend to be shorter and there are far fewer American students who participate in such study programs than foreign students who come to the U.S.
About 289,400 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit in 2012-13, the most recent year data was available. There was 2 percent growth from a year earlier. Overall, less than 10 percent of American students study abroad during their college years.
The United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China were the leading destinations.
"There is work to be done to make it more accessible and affordable," Ryan said.