15% Decrease in Number of International Students in US During 2020/21, Report Shows


The number of international students at US universities and colleges has decreased by 15 percent in 2020/21 academic year compared to the previous year, according to the Open Doors 2021 report from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Data have shown that a total of 914,095 international students pursued studies in the United States during the 2020/21 academic year. Differently, a year earlier, there were 1,075,496 international students in the United States, Erudera.com reports.

Nevertheless, IIE survey results indicate that US colleges and universities have seen a four percent increase in the total number of international students this fall.

IIE chief executive officer Allan Goodman said that US colleges and universities were welcoming even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the 2021 report helps to measure the progress that is being made to recover from the pandemic.

According to the institute, 70 percent of colleges in the United States have reported an increase in the number of international students this autumn, 20 percent said that they had experienced a decrease in numbers, while 10 percent remained at the same level.

The United States hosted more than one million international students annually from 2014/15 to 2019/20 academic year. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the drop in the number of international students over the past two years is equivalent to a $12.1 billion loss.

China and India remain the most important sources of international students in the United States, accounting for 53 percent of the student population in the US.

Respectively, 35 percent of international students in the US during 2020/21 came from China, and 18 percent from India.

Other leading countries of international students in 2020/21 are:

  • South Korea
  • Canada
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria
  • Mexico

Matthew Lussenhop, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State, said that international students have a key role in terms of innovation, economic prosperity, and peaceful relations between nations.

“The United States remains the top destination for international students from across the globe, welcoming more than 914,000 students from over 200 places of origin in the 2020/21 academic year. International students bolster the American economy, contributing $39 billion in supporting 416,000 US jobs during the 2019/20 academic year,” Lussenhop said.

According to the report, US higher education institutions have also recorded a 68 percent increase in the number of international students enrolling for the first time in 2020/21. Data have shown that a total of 145,528 international students enrolled at a US university or college for the first time in 2020/21.

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