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International Students Have Returned to US Colleges, Fueled by a Surge From India

FILE - Students on the Indiana University campus, Oct. 14, 2021, in Bloomington, Ind. The State Department and the Institute of International Education report that international students in the U.S. grew by 12% in the 2022-23 academic year, the largest jump in more than 40 years.
FILE - Students on the Indiana University campus, Oct. 14, 2021, in Bloomington, Ind. The State Department and the Institute of International Education report that international students in the U.S. grew by 12% in the 2022-23 academic year, the largest jump in more than 40 years.

International students attended U.S. universities in surging numbers last year, rebounding from a pandemic slump with the help of a 35% jump in students coming from India, according to a study released Monday.

Overall, the number of international students in the U.S. grew by 12% in the 2022-23 academic year, the largest single-year increase in more than 40 years, according to findings from the State Department and the nonprofit Institute of International Education. More than 1 million students came from abroad, the most since the 2019-20 school year.

“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,” said Allan E. Goodman, CEO of the Institute of International Education.

American colleges enrolled nearly 269,000 students from India, more than ever and second only to China. Most came for graduate programs, often in science, technology and business.

“The U.S. maintains a strong relationship with India on education, which I think is getting even stronger and even more connected,” said Marianne Craven, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for academic exchange.

China still accounted for the most foreign students in the U.S. with 290,000, but its numbers decreased for a third consecutive year.

It reflects a gradual shift. After years of booming demand from China, interest has ebbed amid chilly international relations and increased competition from universities in the United Kingdom and Canada. Officials behind the new study also blame prolonged travel restrictions in Asia during the pandemic.

At the same time, U.S. universities have focused on recruiting in India, hoping to tap a growing population that the United Nations predicted would overtake China as the world's largest this year. Students from India now outnumber those from China in 24 U.S. states, including Illinois, Texas and Michigan, which rank among the top destinations for international students.

For the second consecutive year, America's graduate programs were the main attraction for international students, the study finds. Graduate enrollment grew by 21%, while undergraduate numbers ticked up 1%. It reverses a trend from the previous decade, which saw undergraduates come in larger numbers.

Much of last year's growth is credited to math and computer science programs, which attracted more students than any other subject and saw a 20% boost in enrollment over the previous year. Engineering and business followed behind. Taken together, those three fields account for more than half of all international students in the United States.

The surge nearly brings international numbers back to their pre-pandemic highs, with a peak of almost 1.1 million students in 2018. Enrollment fell precipitously over the following two years as COVID-19 stifled academic exchange.

The rebound appears to be continuing, with an 8% increase in international enrollment this fall, according to a smaller survey meant to give a snapshot of recent trends.

Overall, international students made up just 5.6% of all college students in the 2022-23 year, but they play an outsize role in U.S. higher education. University leaders say they're important for global exchange, and they're also important for revenue — international students are usually charged higher tuition rates, effectively subsidizing college for U.S. students.

Behind China and India, nations sending the most students to the U.S. were South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan and Nigeria. Last school year saw a record number of students come from Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, India, Italy, Nepal, Pakistan and Spain.

While more students come from abroad, many colleges are struggling to attract students at home. Total enrollment across all colleges has stayed in a slump in the wake of pandemic decreases, and freshman enrollment decreased by 3.6% in fall 2023, according to a separate study by the National Student Clearinghouse.

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Senator draws attention to universities that haven’t returned remains

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.

More than 70 U.S. universities continue to hold human remains taken from Native American burial sites, although those remains were supposed to be returned 30 years ago.

Jennifer Bendery writes in Huffington Post that one senator has been using his position in an attempt to shame universities into returning remains and artifacts. (April 2024)

COVID forced one international student to go hungry

FILE - Masked students walk to the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium on the Jackson State University campus in Jackson, Miss., July 27, 2021.
FILE - Masked students walk to the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium on the Jackson State University campus in Jackson, Miss., July 27, 2021.

When Samantha (not her real name) enrolled in community college in the U.S., her family at home in South Africa scrimped and saved to support her.

But the COVID-19 pandemic hurt the family’s finances, and at one point Samantha had four on-campus jobs just to make ends meet. Many in the U.S. believe international students are wealthy sources of funding for universities, but stories like Samantha’s suggest otherwise.

Andrea Gutierrez reports for The World. (March 2024)

Tips for paying for a STEM degree as an international student

FILE - FILE - A visitor to the 21st China Beijing International High-tech Expo looks at a computer chip through the microscope displayed by the Tsinghua Unigroup project in Beijing, on May 17, 2018.
FILE - FILE - A visitor to the 21st China Beijing International High-tech Expo looks at a computer chip through the microscope displayed by the Tsinghua Unigroup project in Beijing, on May 17, 2018.

For US News & World Report, Melanie Lockert describes how to calculate the cost of a STEM degree, and where to find funding. (March 2024)

NAIA all but bans its transgender college athletes from women's sports

FILE - NAIA women’s basketball players gather after a game in St. Louis, Feb. 22, 2024. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the governing body for mostly small colleges, said Monday that transgender athletes would be all but banned from women's sports.
FILE - NAIA women’s basketball players gather after a game in St. Louis, Feb. 22, 2024. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the governing body for mostly small colleges, said Monday that transgender athletes would be all but banned from women's sports.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the governing body for mostly small colleges, announced a policy Monday that all but bans transgender athletes from competing in women's sports.

The NAIA's Council of Presidents approved the policy in a 20-0 vote. The NAIA, which oversees some 83,000 athletes at schools across the country, is believed to be the first college sports organization to take such a step.

According to the transgender participation policy, all athletes may participate in NAIA-sponsored male sports but only athletes whose biological sex assigned at birth is female and have not begun hormone therapy will be allowed to participate in women's sports.

A student who has begun hormone therapy may participate in activities such as workouts, practices and team activities, but not in interscholastic competition.

"With the exception of competitive cheer and competitive dance, the NAIA created separate categories for male and female participants," the NAIA said. "Each NAIA sport includes some combination of strength, speed and stamina, providing competitive advantages for male student-athletes. As a result, the NAIA policy for transgender student-athletes applies to all sports except for competitive cheer and competitive dance, which are open to all students."

There is no known number of transgender athletes at the high school and college levels, though it is believed to be small. The topic has become a hot-button issue for those for and against transgender athletes competing on girls' and women's sports teams.

At least 24 states have laws barring transgender women and girls from competing in certain women's or girls sports competitions. Last month, more than a dozen current and former college athletes filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing the sports governing body for more than 500,000 athletes of violating their rights by allowing transgender women to compete in women's sports.

The Biden administration originally planned to release a new federal Title IX rule — the law forbids discrimination based on sex in education — addressing both campus sexual assault and transgender athletes. But earlier this year, the department decided to split them into separate rules, and the athletics rule now remains in limbo even as the sexual assault policy moves forward.

Hours after the NAIA announcement, the NCAA released a statement: "College sports are the premier stage for women's sports in America and the NCAA will continue to promote Title IX, make unprecedented investments in women's sports and ensure fair competition for all student-athletes in all NCAA championships."

The NCAA has had a policy for transgender athlete participation in place since 2010, which called for one year of testosterone suppression treatment and documented testosterone levels submitted before championship competitions. In 2022, the NCAA revised its policies on transgender athlete participation in an attempt to align with national sport governing bodies, following the lead of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

The three-phase implementation of the policy included a continuation of the 2010 policy, requiring transgender women to be on hormone replacement therapy for at least one year, plus the submission of a hormone-level test before the start of both the regular season and championship events.

The third phase adds national and international sport governing body standards to the NCAA's policy and is scheduled to be implemented for the 2024-25 school year on August 1.

There are some 15.3 million public high school students in the United States and a 2019 study by the CDC estimated 1.8% of them — about 275,000 — are transgender. The number of athletes within that group is much smaller; a 2017 survey by Human Rights Campaign suggested fewer than 15% of all transgender boys and transgender girls play sports.

The number of NAIA transgender athletes would be far smaller.

Humanities degrees are tougher sell for international students 

FILE - People walk near the campus center at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Dec. 9, 2013.
FILE - People walk near the campus center at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Dec. 9, 2013.

That’s the argument of one Princeton undergraduate from South Korea.

OPT, the government program that allows college students to work in the US for a short time after graduation without securing a work visa, is biased toward STEM degree holders.

As a result, many international students forego humanities, or choose tech or consulting jobs when their passions lie elsewhere.

Read Siyeon Lee’s argument in the Princetonian. (March 2024)

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