International enrollment in the U.S. spiked 11.5% in the 2022-23 academic year, representing the fastest growth of this student population in over four decades, according to data released Monday by the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State.
That year, the U.S. hosted more than 1 million foreign students, who accounted for about 5.6% of the total college population. The gains have almost reversed heavy international enrollment losses seen during the pandemic’s early days.
“Over one million international students studying in the U.S. reflects a strong rebound, with the number approaching pre-pandemic levels,” Allan Goodman, IIE’s CEO, said in a statement. “This reinforces that the U.S. remains the destination of choice for international students wishing to study abroad, as it has been for more than a century.”
International enrollment has nearly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels
All types of international students increased.
That includes those in Optional Practical Training programs, which allows foreign students to work in the U.S. for up to three years after they finish their program. OPT participation grew to around 199,000 students, up 7.6% from the year before.
Meanwhile, the U.S. hosted about 348,000 international undergraduate students, a 0.9% increase over the year before. And there were about 467,000 international graduate students, up 21.3% compared to the previous year.
International student growth is likely to continue, according to early figures. A poll of more than 630 colleges showed that those institutions have seen an 8% uptick in the number of foreign students they’re hosting in 2023-24.
Below, we’re looking deeper at other trends in international enrollment.
New international student enrollment continued to grow
New international student enrollment is close to record levels. In 2022-23, the U.S. hosted nearly 299,000 new international students, a 14% increase from the year before.
The spikes were seen across all academic levels. There were almost 96,000 new foreign undergraduate students, up 5.6% from the previous year, and nearly 34,000 nondegree students, a whopping 36.8% increase.
New international graduate enrollment was the largest group, with almost 169,000 students. That represents a 15.3% year-over-year increase.
That growth appears poised to continue in the 2023-24 academic year — though at a slower clip. Polled colleges say they’ve seen a 2% increase in new international students this academic year.
More than half, 57%, said they’ve seen an increase in new international students, while 30% reported a decline. The remaining colleges saw flat enrollment.
New international student enrollment spiked in 2022-23
International enrollment from India saw rapid growth
Although China retained its spot as the No. 1 place of origin for international students studying in the U.S., India is quickly gaining ground.
India sent almost 269,000 students to the U.S. for college, up 35% from the year before. Meanwhile, students coming from China dipped 0.2%, declining to around 290,000 students.
Of surveyed colleges, 7 in 10 say they’re focusing undergraduate recruiting efforts on international students from India. Two-thirds of colleges say the same for students from Vietnam, and a little over half say they’re focusing on recruiting undergraduate students from China and South Korea.
India is also a top place of focus for graduate recruitment, with 8 in 10 surveyed colleges saying they’re targeting their efforts there. Only 46% said the same of China.
International enrollment from India surged in 2022-23
Math and computer science continues to prove popular
Around 240,000 international students headed to the U.S. to study math and computer science fields in the 2022-23 academic year, up 19.9% from the year before. Engineering was also popular, attracting nearly 203,000 international students, a 7.8% year-over-year increase. Business and management followed, with a 6.8% increase raising enrollment levels to a little over 157,000 students.
Less popular fields included legal studies and law enforcement, education, humanities, agriculture and intensive English, which each saw under 20,000 international students. However, intensive English saw the largest year-over-year increase, at 41.4%.