International scholars and students have made great contributions to the United States–economically, in helping to advance science and technology, and in increasing international understanding. However, as global competition for highly educated and skilled people has increased, fewer international scholars are choosing to come to the United States. This development could handicap the United States in future global competition, especially in the fields of science and technology. At the same time, making access to U.S. universities easier for foreign students threatens to create problems for domestic students and create security problems.
Since the 1940’s, the United States has led the world in attracting international scholars and students to its institutions of higher learning. Definitions vary, but international students are persons who are not American citizens or permanent residents, who have temporary visas, and who are enrolled full-time at American universities, either to pursue a degree or to attend at least one semester as
Data on international students and scholars are reported in the annual “Open Doors” report of the
From 1954-1955 through 2007-2008, the number of international students in the United States increased more than 1,800 percent–from 34,323 to 623,805. The latter number represents a 7 percent increase over the figure for 2006-2007. In 2008, international students represented about 3.5 percent of all college students in the United States. Their numbers have increased during every academic year, except those between 2002-2003 and 2005-2006, when their numbers dropped by about 4 percent. This drop was largely due to stricter visa restrictions and increased scrutiny of
According to United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports, the United States ranked first in the world in attracting international students in 2008, when it hosted 20 percent of international students. The top ten U.S. states, which accounted for slightly more than 60 percent of all international students in the United States in 2007-2008, are, in descending order,
In 2007-2008, 48.8 percent of international students in the United States were at the graduate level. According to the IIE, these international students represent 12 percent of all graduate students in the United States. In the fields of science and engineering, the international student percentage goes up to 30 percent, and for doctorates awarded in science and engineering it increases to 43 percent.
About 50 percent of recent international graduate students in the United States come from the nations of
International students who earn doctoral degrees have a special importance; they often remain in the United States after they complete their formal studies and make crucial contributions to research and science. The Survey of Earned Doctorates by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) estimates that in 2007, 16,947 international students received doctorates in the United States, representing 38.1 percent of all doctorates awarded in the country. The increase in foreign doctorates has been steady and substantial, as in 1977
President John F. Kennedy at the White House with students from Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Colombia, Morocco, and other countries who came to the United States to study at American colleges and universities in 1961.
The proportion of international students earning American doctoral degrees ranged from a low of 13 percent in education to a high of 68 percent in engineering. International students also received 53 percent of all American doctorates awarded in the physical sciences.
The “Open Doors” report on international scholars reported that 106,123 foreign scholars were teaching and doing research in the United States in 2007-2008, an increase of 8 percent over 2006-2007 and of 70.2 percent over 1996-1997. Of these scholars, 65.6 percent were men, a decrease of 8.6 percent since 1996-1997. The vast majority, 71.0 percent, were primarily involved in research. Another 12.0 percent were in teaching, 9.7 percent in research and teaching equally, and 6.9 percent in other work.
The biological and biomedical sciences had more international scholars than any other fields. Health sciences (17.7 percent), engineering (12.8 percent), and physical sciences (12.1 percent) ranked second, third, and fourth; U.S. social sciences and history were a distant fifth at 4.1 percent. In 2007-2008, the 23,799 scholars from
International scholars, students, and graduates who have remained in the United States have contributed greatly to research labs, universities, and other high-tech institutions. However, there is virtually no information on stay rates for international undergraduate degree recipients or for scholars who arrive here with doctorates. The annual Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education report, “Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients,” covers doctorates in science (including economics and social sciences) and engineering. The most recent report was issued in 2007, including data through 2005.
Stay rates are looked at in terms of one, two, five, and ten years. The 2007 report found the two-year stay rate was 40 percent in 1989; it increased to 71 percent in 1992, declined after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and rebounded to 66 percent by 2005. The five-year stay rate for those getting doctorates in 2000 was an all-time high of 68 percent, and the ten-year stay rate in 2005 was 62 percent. Five-year stay rates from 2000 to 2005 for the four countries with the most doctorate recipients were as follows:
NORC’s Survey of Earned Doctorates asks international graduates whether they plan to stay in the United States. Past research indicates most of the recipients who state they plan to stay actually do so. The percentage of foreign doctoral recipients planning to stay had reached an all-time high of 71.7 percent in 2001, declined after the terrorist attacks, and rebounded in 2005, with the percentage saying they planned to stay at 74.7 percent in 2006. That year’s doctoral recipients from
NAFSA: Association of International Educators conservatively estimated that
Several recent studies have found that in terms of scientific publications, citations, and patents, international students and scholars have made exceptional contributions to the United States, proportionately greater than those made by U.S.-born
International students and scholars enrich American campuses and businesses by adding diversity and providing American students and scholars with greater understanding and knowledge of foreign cultures and governments. Even after international scholars leave, many of them continue to collaborate with scholars in the United States. Many return to their home countries to become respected
For many years, the high quality of educational and research opportunities in the United States has resulted in a brain
Developed nations have also increased their efforts to retain and attract international students and scholars. In particular the forty-six European Higher Education Area (EHEA) countries have initiated the Bologna Process to make academic standards and quality assurance standards of its nations more comparable and compatible, resulting in greater mobility among nations and increased collaboration.
The majority opinion, particularly in academia and research institutes, is that having fewer international scholars and students studying and working in the United States would be detrimental to the scientific and technological innovation crucial to the success of the U.S. economy. There is a counter opinion, mostly articulated by the
Critics have further argued that U.S. scholars, researchers, and students are denied opportunities and discouraged from choosing careers in science and engineering because of foreign-born competitors. The negative impact is argued to be particularly great on minority students. They also propose that
Committee on Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States, Board on Higher Education and Workforce, National Research Council. Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2005. This book explores the impact of international students and scholars on the United States, particularly educational institutions. Gürüz, Kemal. Higher Education and International Student Mobility in the Global Knowledge Economy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Examines how the international mobility of students has changed over time. Institute of International Education. Higher Education on the Move: New Developments in Global Mobility. Leetsdale, Pa.: IIE Books, 2009. Collection of eight articles, each by a different author, exploring recent changes in higher education, the world economy, and governmental changes. _______. Open Doors 2008: Report on International Educational Exchange. Leetsdale, Pa.: IIE Books, 2009. Annual report that provides a statistical analysis of international students and scholars at U.S. academic institutions. Much of the data and analysis are available at the Open Doors Web site (http://opendoors.iienetwork.org). Wadhwa, Vivek, Anna Lee, Richard Freeman, and Alex Salkeyer. Losing the World’s Best and Brightest. Kansas City, Mo.: Kauffman Foundation, 2009. Report arguing that the United States may be on the verge of experiencing a reverse brain drain.
Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992
Economic consequences of immigration
Foreign exchange students
Hayakawa, S. I.
Homeland Security, Department of