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More International Students Enroll In U.S. Graduate Schools

November 9, 2010

Two young Asian students looking at laptopAccording to a recent report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), the number of first-time international graduate students at American universities went up three percent this fall. After flat-lining last year, the increase is both a relief and a concern.

The CGS surveyed graduate schools between September 9 and October 22, reported The Chronicle of Higher Education, and received responses from some 230 U.S. graduate schools. While data showed an overall increase of three percent in first-time foreign enrollments, there were distinct differences among institutions, countries and academic fields. For example, at the top 100 graduate schools with the most international students, first-time enrollment for foreign students went up five percent. At institutions outside the top 100, enrollment rates did not change.

First-time foreign enrollment also went up at private colleges, by eight percent. Public schools saw less of an increase at 1 percent over last year.

Inside Higher Ed noted that all fields, except for education, saw an increase in first-year foreign student enrollment. The largest gains were in physical and earth sciences--an increase of nine percent--and arts and humanities--up five percent.

"It's a good thing to see strong international interest in our graduate programs," said Patrick S. Osmer, chair-elect of the council's board and vice provost for graduate studies at Ohio State University to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Keeping track of international student enrollment is particularly important because foreign students account for approximately 15.5 percent of all students at American graduate schools. Furthermore, most international students come from China, India and South Korea. Collectively, these three countries account for half of all international students at U.S. graduate institutions.

However, in recent years the numbers of Indian and South Korean students have decreased. In 2009, enrollment dropped by 16 percent and 13 percent for the respective groups. Although this year's enrollment rates were an improvement, they are still down--both groups saw a drop of three percent.

Chinese student enrollment, on the other hand, continued its upward trend as the number of students from China went up 20 percent.

The exact cause of such volatility in enrollment is unknown. The Chronicle of Higher Education speculated that it could be due to growing competition worldwide, increased capacity for graduate education in students' home countries or U.S. policies that discourage students from studying in America.

While the increase is encouraging, Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis for the CGS and the report's author, was a bit concerned. "My concern is that we could get to a place where we are over-reliant on one country," he said. He added, however, that the trend was "a natural result" of China's push for undergraduate education, but lack of capacity to meet the later demand for graduate degrees.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

"2010 CGS International Graduate Admissions Survey, Phase III: Final Offers of Admission and Enrollment," cgsnet.org, November 2010

"International Grad Enrollment Up," insidehighered.com, November 9, 2010, Scott Jaschik

"U.S. Institutions See Modest Increases in International Graduate Enrollments," chronicle.com, November 9, 2010, Karin Fischer

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