Almost 150,000 international students studying in the U.S. in 2015/16 chose to study at a higher education institution in California, making it the most popular state among foreign students, revealed the latest Open Doors report.

Published by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the annual report found that four of the top 20 U.S. host institutions for international students were located in the state.

Its top university on the list was the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, which was in second place behind New York University.


U.S. Destinations of International Students. Source: Open Doors 2016 report


The two universities are among the eight institutions that welcome more international students on average than other universities, and have enrolled over 10,000 students from overseas.

The other universities are Arizona State University, Columbia University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northeastern University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Purdue University.

Besides California, New York and Texas are also popular host states for international students, with every one in three of them studying at an institution in any of these three states.


Top Ten Places of Origin of International Students. Source: Open Doors 2016 report


As for the country sending the most students to the U.S., China still tops the list, with its students representing 31.5 percent of all international enrollments.

However, the second largest group, India, appears to be quickly catching up – the number of Indian students is rising at a faster rate, growing by 24.9 percent this past year compared to the 8.1 percent increase of Chinese students.

Saudi Arabia has jumped over South Korea to become the third top source country despite slowing growth – its share only grew by 2 percent to 61,287 students over last year’s figures.

The number of South Korean students coming to the U.S. has also hit a slump, decreasing by four percent.


Growth in Selected Fields of Study of International Students. Source: Open Doors 2016 report


More than a third of all international students are pursuing degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, while 14 percent participated in Optional Practical Training (OPT), many of whom were STEM students as well.

OPT was also the fastest growing academic level, increasing by 23 percent. The training scheme allows students who have already graduated from their programs in the U.S. to remain on their universities’ sponsorship while they work for a U.S. employer.

“The growth in international STEM students is likely connected to the 25 percent increase in students from India, more than three-quarters of who study in these fields,” said IIE in a press statement.


Total number of International Students in the U.S. Source: Open Doors 2016 report


According to the report, the number of overseas students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities grew by 7.1 percent from the previous year, marking 10 consecutive years of growth.

IIE estimates that international students made up 5.2 percent of all students in U.S. higher education in 2015/16, an increase from 4.8 percent the year before and 3.2 percent a decade earlier.

Undergraduate students retain the largest share of international enrollments, growing by 7 percent, while graduate enrolments grew by 6 percent.

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contributed more than US$35 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, a US$4 billion increase from the previous year’s total.

“The Open Doors findings show that international students value the quality, diversity and strong reputation of U.S. institutions and recognize that these institutions will give them opportunities that can help them not only in their education but also in their careers,” said IIE President Allan Goodman.

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