Regardless of the political ups and downs between the U.S. and China, a thriving two-way flow of traffic continues to link the two countries campus to campus, according to a survey released Monday.
The Institute of International Education report found that the influx of Chinese students studying at American institutions of higher learning is the largest contingent of foreign students in the U.S. and has just hit another record.
During the 2012-2013 school year, 819,644 foreign students came to the United States to study, up 7 percent from the previous year and an increase of 40 percent since 2003. About 235,000 of these students — 28 percent — hailed from China, a 21 percent increase among the Chinese.
Although the number of international students dropped in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the figures have dramatically bounced back.
“Chinese students and their parents are looking for high-quality education, get the importance of international education, and it’s making America the No. 1 destination because we actually have the capacity to absorb international students,” said Allan E. Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education.
According to the study, the two main factors that have contributed to America’s popularity for higher education are a burgeoning Chinese middle class and a widespread belief among Chinese parents that U.S. colleges and universities are among the world’s finest.
The report also noted that U.S. higher education is also convenient for Chinese parents, as schools offer “an unmatched range of nearly 4,000 colleges and universities of all sizes and types, with an extensive variety of course offerings, fields of study, and price points.”
Chinese students outpace their American study-abroad counterparts, as 283,332 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit in 2012-2013, a 3 percent increase from the previous year. Although this upward trend has continued for the past seven years, the latest figures represent just 1.4 percent of the 21 million enrolled U.S. undergraduates.
The most popular destinations for U.S. students were Britain, Italy, Spain and France, with China fifth.
U.S. students studying abroad tended to take shorter trips than international students studying in the U.S., the report found.
“We need to increase substantially the number of U.S. students who go abroad so that they, too can gain the international experience which is so vital to career success and deepening mutual understanding,” Mr. Goodman said.
The benefits just aren’t academic and cultural: According to the Institute of International Education and the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, foreign students and their families contribute $24 billion to the U.S. economy.
New York City is still the largest metropolitan international student hub, while California is the state leader with more than 100,000 international students.
Nationwide, the University of Southern California has hosted the most international students for the past 11 years. Rounding out the top five are the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, New York University and Columbia University.
The Institute of International Education believes that the U.S. will continue to be one of the most popular study abroad destinations among international students.
“International education promotes the relationship building and knowledge exchange between people and communities in the United States and around the world that are necessary to solve global challenges,” said Evan M. Ryan, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. “The connections made during international education experiences last a lifetime. International students enrich classrooms, campuses and communities in ways that endure long after students return to their home countries. We encourage U.S. schools to continue to welcome more international students to their campuses and to do more to make study abroad a reality for all of their students.”