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by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech | Nov. 14, 2022
International student enrollment at United States colleges and universities has climbed back up last year after sharply dropping during the pandemic, according to a new survey released Monday.  
A total of 948,519 international students from over 200 countries studied at a U.S. college or university last year, marking a 4 percent increase compared to the year before, according to the “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange” from the Institute of International Education and the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  
Over 90 percent of international students returned to in-person classes during their time in the U.S., the survey found.  
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Survey crafters considered the number of international students enrolled in a college and university and those enrolled in optional practical training programs.  
“We are thrilled to see international student numbers on the rise, and to see the United States maintain its global leadership as the top destination of choice for international students,” Lee Satterfield, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said in a statement.  
Welcoming international students to U.S. campuses is at “the heart of people-to-people diplomacy,” Satterfield said in the statement, adding that it is also a “foundational component” of U.S. foreign policy strategy to attract top talent to the country.  
International student enrollment also plays an immediate economic role as well. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contributed $32 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021. 
The survey shows massive spikes in the number of international students from Germany, Spain and France coming to study in the United States last year.  
During the 2020-21 academic year, there were just over 5,360 German students studying in the United States. That number jumped to over 8,500 the following year, the survey shows.  
The number of Spanish students increased from 5,781 to 8,165. Students from France enrolled in a U.S. college or university went up from 5,643 to 7,751 during that same time period.  
But the survey also shows major declines in the number of foreign students from Saudia Arabia, China and Kuwait.  
China accounts for the largest group of international students in the United States with over 30 percent of all foreign students studying in the U.S, according to the survey.  
Between the 2020-21 to the 2021-22 academic years, the number of international students from China dropped by more than 8 percent, going from 317,299 to 290,086.  
There were nearly 22,000 international students from Saudi Arabia in the United States during the 2020-21 academic year. That number sank by 17 percent to about 18,200 the following academic year, according to the survey. 
Similarly, the number of students from Kuwait studying in the U.S. dropped by over 13 percent during that same time period going from 6,846 to 5,923.  
Changing America has reached out to IIE for comment on why there has been a drop in international students from these three countries.
A much smaller second survey conducted this fall of just over 630 schools shows that international student enrollment continues to go up. In the “Fall snapshot” survey, the IIE and the U.S. Department of State found that those colleges and universities have seen a 9 percent increase in international student enrollment so far this academic year.  
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