Open doors

Rajika Bhandari, policy and practice head of research at theInstitute of International Education, is the lead author of the Open Doors report on foreign students studying in the U.S. The Indian American executive noted in the report that the majority of the India-based students were STEM-based graduate students. (screen grab YouTube/SymbiosisU)

The annual Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' Open Doors report released Nov. 13 revealed that India-based students are the second-most among foreign students studying in the U.S.

Only China tops India in terms of international students studying in the U.S., according to the report, which was led by IIE policy and practice head of research Rajika Bhandari.

The Indian American executive, in a conference call in which India-West participated, said that the international trend in the U.S. increased by more than 3 percent in the 2016-2017 academic year, reaching a total of 1.08 million students, which is the largest it has ever been.

The number of international students generated around $39 billion toward the U.S. economy in 2016.

“International student exchange is an essential contributor to America’s economic competitiveness and national security. The U.S. higher education sector remains the global leader in welcoming students from around the world, and at the same time, we are committed to increasing opportunities to study abroad for Americans,” said Alyson L. Grunder, deputy assistant secretary of state for policy in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“We need to develop the talent and skills necessary for 21st century careers. It is in our national interest to build and grow the international relationships and networks that are key to addressing the global challenges and opportunities we face going forward,” Grunder said. “State Department exchange programs such as the Fulbright and Gilman Scholarship programs and our global network of EducationUSA advising centers in more than 170 countries are key to achieving these goals.”

Lead researcher Bhandari said that while there are more students in the country, the enrollment numbers remained flat, citing an increase in international students staying longer as part of the Optional Practical Training program.

The OPT numbers, Bhandari said, had raised by 19 percent, with students coming from more than 200 countries.

While India's numbers increased again — by 12 percent — it was down with regard to recent years when the country had students coming to the U.S. in excess of 20 percent each year.

A total of 186,267 students from India studied in the U.S. for the 2016-2017 academic year, up from 165,918 students in the 2015-2016 year. Bhandari said the majority of the India-based students were STEM-based graduate students. The group from India accounted for roughly $6.5 million to the U.S. economy, she said.

The majority of Indian students in the U.S. study at the graduate level. In 2016-17, their breakdown was 11.8 percent undergraduate; 56.3 percent graduate students; 1.2 percent other; and 30.7 percent OPT.

Worldwide, there were a total of 1,078,822 international students in the U.S., up from 1,043,839 in the 2015-2016 year.

Bhandari cited the competitiveness in other countries such as the U.K., Canada, Germany and Australia as reasons why the numbers weren't as steep as they expected.

“Countries and multinational employers around the world are competing to attract top talent. As more countries become active hosts of international students and implement national strategies to attract them, the competition for top global talent in higher education and the workforce will only intensify,” said IIE president and CEO Allan E. Goodman. “Students continue to be attracted to the high quality and diverse opportunities offered by U.S. colleges and universities. But it is critical for U.S. institutions to set strategic goals and be proactive in reaching out to students and families in a wide range of countries in the coming year, and for the United States to keep its academic doors open to students from all over the world.”

Overall, some of the fastest growing countries were in South Asia, with Nepal being the fastest than other countries including India and Bangladesh, according to Bhandari, citing the study.

Meanwhile, the number of American students studying abroad has increased by 4 percent, the study revealed. Many of the students from the U.S. studying abroad are doing so in Europe, it said.

The top country for U.S. students studying abroad was the United Kingdom with 39,140 students. Italy, Spain, France and Germany rounded out the top five with China the first non-European country on the list at No. 6.

India was the 15th top country for U.S. students studying abroad. A total of 4,181 students studied in India, according to the study, down 5.8 percent from the 4,438 in the previous academic year.

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