Nov 19, 2009

US Students May Be Facing Increased Competition from International Applicants

The Common Application organization recently reported astonishing increases in utilization of their online application system so far this year. In addition to a 25 percent jump in applications over 2008, the number of students registered as potential applicants in the system also rose by 16 percent. But curiously, demographics show the number of US high school students projected to graduate in 2010 declining. So what’s going on?

While there may be several explanations for why more students are already applying to more colleges this year, one interesting possibility recently cropped up in statistics collected by the Institute of International Education. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required), the number of foreign students attending American colleges hit an all-time high last year, increasing by 8 percent over the previous year. Some 671,616 international students attended US institutions in 2008-09. Enrollment grew strongest at the undergraduate level with an 11 percent increase in foreign students matriculating in US colleges and universities.

While India continues to send the most students to the US, China increased undergraduate enrollments by 60 percent over the 2007-08 academic year and is projected to continue sending even more students in the coming years. Evidently, the availability of post-secondary educational opportunities in China has not kept pace with demand, and current exchange rates bring the cost of an American education within the means of many middleclass Chinese families.

So where are these students applying? It turns out that many of the schools favored by international students are those sought by US applicants. For example, the list of doctoral institutions with the greatest percentage of foreign students covers colleges recognizable as among the most selective in national rankings:

Doctoral
Institution

Percent International Students

Total
I
nternational Enrollment

Columbia University, NY

26%

6685

Harvard University, MA

23%

4735

University of Southern California

22%

7482

University of Pennsylvania

19%

4635

University at Buffalo, NY

17%

4539

Boston University, MA

16%

5037

Purdue, IN

15%

6136

UCLA, CA

15%

5590

University of Michigan

14%

5790

New York University

13%

6761

International enrollments at baccalaureate institutions are more of a mixed bag:

Baccalaureate
Institution

Percent International Students

Total International Enrollment

Brigham Young University-Hawaii

43%

1039

Mount Holyoke College, MA

22%

468

Dickinson State University, ND

16%

431

Macalester College, MN

13%

254

Grinnell College, IA

13%

206

Associate-degree granting institutions are also experiencing an increase in international students, some of whom will eventually transfer to 4-year institutions. Locally, both Montgomery College and the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) are in the top ten nationally for total number of international students at 2242 (9%) and 1663 (4%) respectively.

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