Over the past several years, inbound international students coming to the U.S. to earn a high school diploma have grown at a much higher rate and they now out-number those travelling to the U.S. to participate in exchange programs. The number of international students enrolled directly in U.S. secondary programs more than tripled from fall 2004 to fall 2013 (Student Exchange Visitor Program [SEVP], 2004; 2013), while the number of exchange students grew only about 15 percent during the same period (Council on Standards for International Educational Travel [CSIET] 2013; 2014). In October 2013 there were 73,019 international students pursuing a secondary-level education in the U.S., with 48,632 or 67 percent of these enrolled for a full diploma.
A new report published by the Institute of International Education (IIE), ” Charting New Pathways to Higher Education: International Secondary Students in the United States,” provides comprehensive analysis on the more than 73,000 inbound international students who come to the United States for high school and what the trends mean for higher education enrollments and recruitment.
The new report looks closely at where the students come from and where they study — with breakdowns by U.S. state and types of schools. It provides narrative analysis and data tables that compare specific numbers and trends for international students at the secondary level with those for international students in higher education in the U.S.
“While secondary school students from around the world have been coming to the United States on high school exchange programs for many years, IIE’s new analysis shows that the number of students who enroll directly in U.S. schools to earn a U.S. high school diploma now significantly outnumbers those who are here on exchanges,” said IIE’s deputy vice president for Research and Evaluation, Rajika Bhandari. “This is a remarkable finding, and one which has implications for U.S. higher education.”
The vast majority (95 percent) of international secondary students enroll in U.S. private schools, including independent schools and religiously-affiliated schools. Current U.S. visa policies restrict F-1 students to no more than one year of study in public schools, which means that international students are not able to enroll in public high schools for multiple years to earn a high school diploma. Given these visa restrictions, international programs at public schools function more like exchange programs than those at private schools.
“For U.S. high schools, increasing international student enrollment may serve to enhance schools’ internationalization efforts and provide a diversity of student viewpoints and experiences to develop the global perspectives of American students, some of whom may not have global exposure otherwise. The U.S. itself is a diverse society and operates within a global system in which our citizens must be prepared to address economic, social, environmental, and security concerns that cut across national boundaries. The U.S. Department of Education (2012) has stressed the importance of building the global competencies of U.S. students to make them internationally competitive and to strengthen the global position of the U.S. In order to achieve the goal of educating globally competent students, U.S. high schools can benefit from detailed information on the mobility of secondary students to the U.S. to inform their approaches to internationalizing their curricula and to serve as a resource for recruitment and enrollment planning for secondary schools that currently administer or are looking to launch international student programs.”
“The growing phenomenon of international students enrolling in U.S. high schools to earn a U.S. diploma is largely driven by demand from Asian students. The demographics of this student profile suggest that international enrollments may provide overall diversity for a school, but fail to represent a full range of international students from many parts of the world. The risk of enrolling too many students from the same region is that international students may tend to associate more closely with their compatriots with whom they feel familiar and may be less likely to integrate fully with their American classmates, which would detract from the goal of cross-cultural learning for both international and domestic students. Schools that enroll international students are encouraged to pay close attention to the diversity of their international student body by strategically recruiting in a range of countries across several regions. Because exchange programs are a more popular form of U.S. study among European and South American secondary students, schools can expand the diversity of their international student population beyond Asia by simultaneously enrolling exchange students in addition to those seeking diplomas. As the number and diversity of their international students grow, schools will also need to consider what sorts of support services and resources they will need to provide in order to accommodate the unique needs of their international student body.”