The Open Doors 2022 Report on International Educational Exchange, released last month by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education (IIE), found that 948,519 international students from more than 200 places of origin studied at US higher education institutions during the 2021/2022 academic year, a 4% increase compared to the previous academic year. The report shows that new international student enrollments returned to prepandemic levels with an increase of 80% following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 40,000 international students studied English for 467,368 student-weeks at 330 intensive English programs during calendar year 2021. This is only about a third of the peak year of 2015, but early data suggest that 2022 will see considerably more growth.
According to the US Department of Commerce, international students contributed $32 billion to the US economy in 2021. “We are thrilled to see international student numbers on the rise, and to see the United States maintain its global leadership as the top destination of choice for international students,” said Lee Satterfield, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
International students enrolled for the first time at a US college or university increased by 80% year over year, a return to prepandemic levels. New international students continued to study in every US state and territory, and nearly all US states (44 out of 50) experienced an increase greater than 50% in new international student enrollments.
“The incredible rebound we have seen in international student mobility demonstrates the United States’ and its higher education institutions’ unwavering commitment to welcoming students from around the world,” said IIE CEO Allan E. Goodman. “The Open Doors 2022 report emphasizes that, despite the complexity and uncertainty that accompany pandemics, international educational exchanges continue. Investment in international exchange remains the best way for educational institutions and countries to connect people and ideas around the world.”
In addition to enrolled international students, more than 184,000 students pursued Optional Practical Training (OPT), a program allowing individuals to gain practical work experiences after academic study.
China and India represent the majority (52%) of all international students in the US. China remained the top-sending country in 2021/22, with 290,086 students on US campuses (-9% year over year). India, the second top-sending country, sent 199,182 international students in 2021/22, an increase of 19% year over year.
Twelve of the top 25 places of origin increased the number of international students enrolled in the US by double digits in the 2021/22 academic year. In addition, other places of origin, including Canada, Mexico, and Nigeria, returned to prepandemic international student numbers. Notably, Nigeria saw its largest increase (+12% year over year) in international students studying in the US since the 1980s.
Indications Point to the Return of Study Abroad for US Students
US institutions reported a 523% increase in students going abroad in summer 2021, with 58% of all US students in 2020/21 choosing to study abroad in the summer. These early indications show that demand for international study remains high, and more students will return to study abroad programs in the coming years. According to IIE’s “Spring 2022 Snapshot,” 83% of institutions noted an increase in study abroad numbers for 2022/2023 compared to the previous year.
Data collected during the 2020/2021 academic year shows US study abroad halted amid the pandemic, with the total number of US students studying abroad for academic credit declining by 91% to 14,549 students. Furthermore, over 400 US institutions reported an additional 32,990 US students participating in online global learning opportunities in the same year.
“As study abroad re-emerges for American students, the Biden administration is expanding the tools available to students to provide greater affordability and accessibility for all students to ensure it reflects the rich diversity of the United States,” Satterfield said. “Study abroad is of strategic importance, as we prepare American students to compete in an increasingly interconnected world.”
Continued International Student Growth for Fall 2022
The “Fall 2022 International Student Enrollment Snapshot” findings show a sustained positive trajectory for international student mobility in the US, with higher education institutions reporting a 9% increase in total international students in fall 2022—growth across all academic levels and OPT. The number of new international students enrolled at US institutions increased (7%), building on the 80% rebound in new enrollments during the 2021/22 academic year (Open Doors, 2022). Nearly all institutions (99%) reported a return to in-person or hybrid study. Eighty-seven percent reported financial support for international student recruitment the same as or higher than the previous year’s. Over 630 US higher education institutions participated in the “Fall 2022 International Student Enrollment Snapshot.”
To learn more about Open Doors, visit opendoorsdata.org.