Nov 19, 2023 - World

Indian students fuel international enrollment at American colleges

Illustration of a location pin wearing a mortar board

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

International students flocked to the U.S. in record numbers last year, including a 35% increase in those coming from India.

Why it matters: Booming demand from India for American education is offsetting a decline in the number of students from China, which fell for a third straight year.

The big picture: There were more than one million international students studying in the U.S. during the 2022-2023 academic year, marking a 12% increase over the previous year and the fastest growth rate in over four decades, according to an Open Doors report released this week.

  • While the total number rebounded to near pre-pandemic levels, graduate student enrollments reached an all-time high.

What they're saying: Mirka Martel, head of research, evaluation and learning at the Institute of International Education, told Axios there has been a "rebound" of international students after the COVID pandemic.

  • "We are also seeing positive ongoing trends in many places of origin driven by ongoing outreach and recruitment by U.S. higher education institutions," she added.

By the numbers: International students accounted for 6% of the total U.S. higher education population in the 2022-2023 academic year, according to the findings from the State Department and the Institute of International Education.

  • 48 states reported an increase in their international student enrollment numbers over the year prior.

Of note: International students contributed nearly $38 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Commerce Department.

Between the lines: The spike in the number of international students also comes as the U.S. expands its long-standing scientific collaborations with India — while both countries try to counter China's ever-growing influence, Axios' Alison Snyder reports.

  • At the same time, government funding is often directed to universities that have been a venue for collaboration between the U.S. and India for decades, starting with exchanges between students and scholars in the two countries.
  • "Strengthening educational ties between the United States and India is a priority for the U.S. Government," a U.S. Department of State spokesperson told Axios.
  • India reached an all-time high of 268,923 international students last year, marking an increase of 35% year-over-year. It was also the top country where institutions prioritized recruitment, per a report from the Institute of International Education.

Zoom in: While the highest number of students have continued to come from China for more than a decade, the number of students (289,526) has decreased each year since the pandemic.

  • The decline could be attributed in part to pandemic-era travel restrictions, but Chinese student enrollment had already started to plateau during the 2017-18 academic year.

What's next: The number of international students studying in the U.S. is expected to continue to grow at 8% in the 2023-2024 academic year, per the report.

Go deeper:

Go deeper