International Students in the US: The Growing Enrollments of Students from China and India

In 2014, the number of international students studying in the United States reached nearly 900,000, China leading with 31% of international placements in more than 9,000 colleges, universities, and vocational schools throughout the US. India was second, with nearly 12% of placements, and South Korea and Saudi Arabia following with 6% each, according to the Institute of International Education.

Shifting Numbers

Although there has been huge growth in the number of Chinese students coming to the US to study over the past 15 years, 2015 showed a slight drop in graduate students, while the Indian student numbers increased by as much as 12% over the last year.

Trends Among Chinese Students

Due to the extreme pressure and competition of enrollment in the Chinese educational system, many students seek academic opportunities in the US, which is why Chinese students lead as the majority of international students attending US academic institutions.

However, at the graduate level, China is placing much more emphasis on improving educational opportunities in masters and doctorate programs. Universities are improving the quality of the education and with the economy moving forward, there are more opportunities for students pursuing graduate studies, which makes the trek to the United States less attractive than it has previously been, causing this decrease in Chinese applicants to US schools.

Trends Among Indian Students

A huge amount of Indian students coming to the US to study are attending graduate programs, with 84% of graduate applications among Indian students for admission to master’s and certificate programs, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. The number of Indian student enrollments in US graduate programs jumped 27% in 2014 from the previous year.

Undergraduate applications, however, are not showing as much growth. According to Peggy Blumenthal of the Institute of International Education, this is partly due to India’s strong technology institutes preventing the need for students to seek undergraduate opportunities abroad and partly due to reluctance among Indian parents to send their daughters abroad.

At the graduate level, however, more Indian students are coming to the United States, especially since recent international cooperation between India and the United States has helped open the floodgates for Indian graduate students.

STEM Programs

50% of all applications to US programs among international graduate students were for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. In comparison to the 16% of enrollments in STEM graduation programs among US citizens and residents, it is apparent that international graduate students are critical to fulfilling the demand for skilled STEM workers within US workplaces.

For more information about international students and the process of becoming a student in the US, visit our F1 Student section.