Open Doors, supported by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, is a comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars studying or teaching at higher education institutions in the United States, and U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit at their home colleges or universities.
In 2016/17, for the second consecutive year, U.S. colleges and universities hosted more than one million international students, reaching a record high of 1.08 million. This also marks the eleventh consecutive year of continued expansion of the total number of international students in U.S. higher education.
While the overall number of international students studying in the United States has increased, the number of new international students—those enrolled at a U.S. institution for the first time in fall 2016, declined by nearly 10,000 students to about 291,000, a three percent decrease from the previous year. This is the first time that these numbers have declined in the twelve years since Open Doors has reported new enrollments.
The factors driving the slowing of growth include a mix of global and local economic conditions, and in some cases expanded higher education opportunities at home and declining populations. The scaling back of large Saudi and Brazil government scholarship programs were a significant factor, as the number of students from those two countries showed the biggest decreases, particularly in non-degree study. Much of the increase reported for the past couple of years can be attributed to more students pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT) related to their academic fields after their degree studies, and thus remaining longer in the U.S. higher education system. These flattening trends have a nearly two year history, as students reflected in the current Open Doors report were already on campus in September 2016 for the fall term, and most had applied in 2015 and made their decisions in spring 2016.
IIE conducted a separate online fall enrollment survey with nine other education associations in September and October 2017 to provide an early look at what campuses are seeing now for the current 2017/18 academic year. The nearly 500 colleges and universities responding reported continued flattening in the overall number of enrolled students and an average decrease of 7 percent in the number of new enrolled students.
But these numbers were not evenly distributed: 45 percent of the campuses reported declines in new enrollments for fall 2017, while 31 percent reported increases in new enrollments and 24 percent reported no change from last year.
Direct to Open Doors Data Repository