2017-2018 International Student Enrollment in the United States



2017 -2018 International Student Enrollment in the United States



According to Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, a report presented by the Institute for International Education and the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in the 2017-18 academic year the following are the statistics of the enrollment of international students in American colleges and universities.

A total enrollment of 1,094,790 international students enrolled last year, a 1.5 percent increase over the previous year. The increase is mostly due to an increase in the number of international students participating in Optional Practical Training. OPT participants’ numbers increased by 15.8 percent from 175,695 to 203,460. Nearly half of all Optical Practical Training are from China and India.

New international students decreased by 6.6 percent from the previous year from 290,840 to 271,740.  Enrollment in undergraduate programs decreased 6.3 percent and 5.5 percent in graduate degree programs. Non-degree programs, including English language training programs decreased 9.7 percent.

Total program enrollments decreased by 1.3 percent from 903,125 to 891,330.

Chinese students, who compose one-third of all international student enrollments in the United States, increased 3.6 percent. However, in the previous year, the growth of Chinese students was 6.8 percent.

Indian students, who compose nearly a fifth of all international students studying in the United States, increased 5.4 percent. However, in the previous year, the growth of Indian students was 12.3 percent.

Students from Brazil, Nepal Pakistan, Nigeria and Vietnam enrolled in higher numbers in 2017-18 than in the previous year.

Students from Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada and South Korea enrolled in fewer numbers than in the previous year. (2017-18 marked the seventh straight year of decreased enrollment from Korean students.)

Not surprising students from countries affected by the travel ban, enrolled in decreased numbers, including students from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia.

The number of American students studying abroad increased 2.3 percent. A total of 332,727 students studied abroad for credit in 2016-17, about 10 percent of all undergraduate students. Nearly 65 percent of all American students studying abroad studied on short-term programs. The most popular countries for study abroad programs are: The United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and China.

International students studying in the United States contributed $42.4 billion to the American economy in 2017. That represents an increase of $39 billion in the previous year.


Key Takeaways

There are many factors contributing to the decrease in the number of international students enrolling in American colleges and universities, including:

Political climate

Uncertainty over travel bans, visa approvals and OPT options after graduation

Non-competitive tuition and fee structure

Safety issues

Competition from international education hubs in the Middle East, China and Southeast Asia



The statistics in this report reflect the enrollment of international students in the United States from the previous year, not the current year. There is no indication that going forward, enrollment decreases will be reversed.

There are political, economic and technological trends that have, and will continue to impact, international student enrollment worldwide.

Online enrollment will impact the mobility of international students, especially the future enrollment of Indian and African students.


This entry was posted in Colleges, Foreign Students, International Education, International students, Universities by Marguerite Dennis. Bookmark the permalink.

About Marguerite Dennis

Marguerite Dennis has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During that time she was responsible for establishing a branch campus for Suffolk University in Dakar, Senegal and Madrid, Spain. Marguerite increased the international student population at Suffolk University by 193% from 1993 to 2011 and increased the number of study abroad programs by 135%, from 20 to 47. She monitored the recruitment programs for Suffolk University in 20 countries and hired a network of 10 international educational consultants. She signed agreements in Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Germany, Mexico, France and Argentina.

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