The number of international students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities exceeded one million for the first time during 2015-16 academic year, a 7% increase from the previous year and nearly double the level of 10 years ago.
But some U.S. schools are concerned about their ability to continue to dominate the global marketplace. They cite the election of Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of tightening U.S. borders, combined with China’s growing effort to attract international students, flat U.S. government education spending and a spate of racist attacks on college campuses since the election.
“I think there will be a short-term chilling effect on international students coming here not unlike there was after 9/11,” said Jason Lane, chairman of the Department of Education Policy and Leadership at the University at Albany-SUNY. “International students will be concerned about what the political environment means for them.”
China continues to send the largest number of students to the U.S. at 328,547, up 8.1% over the 2014-15 academic year, while India is second, at 165,918, up 25% from the prior year, according to the Institute of International Education, which released its “Open Doors” report on Monday.
The U.S. is by far the largest destination for international students, but investment in higher education by China is reshaping the global marketplace. A decade ago, China attracted very few students from abroad; last year there were 397,635, according to the Chinese government. That is up 36% from 2011.
In 2015, 60% of students studying in China came from other Asian nations. South Koreans alone sent 66,672 last year. The number of South Koreans studying in the U.S. declined last year by 4% to 61,007.
By 2020, China is projected to attract more international students than the U.K., which is second to the U.S. in the field, according to several analysts. The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union could hurt its prospects of attracting foreign students, they said.