Overseas Students Pour Into Some American Campuses, but Other Colleges Haven’t Kept Up With the Grow

The United States is experiencing an international-student boom. But that boom is not being shared equally by all colleges.

The number of foreign students at American colleges rose 10 percent in 2014-15, according to new data from the Institute of International Education. Over the past decade, the increase has been a whopping 73 percent.

A Chronicle analysis shows, however, that the influx has helped international enrollments skyrocket at some institutions, while others have fewer students now than 10 years ago. Less than half of the institutions, 44 percent, kept pace with the national growth. And just 10 percent of colleges accounted for nearly 70 percent of the surge between 2005-6 and 2014-15.

"No question," says Rahul Choudaha, an expert on global student mobility, "the big are getting bigger."

This imbalance, Mr. Choudaha and others say, could have important implications.

Institutions that haven’t kept up could find the competition to recruit overseas even tougher. This could mean American students on those campuses could miss out on the diverse perspectives that international students bring. On the other hand, colleges that attract a significant portion of their student body from abroad risk becoming overreliant on foreign tuition dollars, which could leave them vulnerable to shifting global trends.

The Chronicle examined enrollments for 1,236 institutions with at least 10 student-visa holders, as reported to the Institute of International Education. An individual college’s share of the foreign-student population was determined by calculating the number of international students it enrolled per 1,000 such students in the United States. For example, the fastest-growing institution during the period examined, Northeastern University, enrolled 1,980 foreign students in 2005-6, or 3.5 of every 1,000 foreign students at American colleges. By 2014-15, the university had 10,559 international students, close to 11 of every 1,000 in the United States.

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