Who Said American Education Is in Decline?

Enrolling foreign graduate students has helped U.S. universities - and local economies - attract some of the brightest and best minds from around the world. And while the number of international students admitted at American institutions dropped after the recent recession, the latest findings from the Council of Graduate Schools show that foreign admissions are climbing again.

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U.S. Schools Open Their Doors to More International Students

The American economy has a lot to gain from attracting graduate students from around the world. Not only do they bring new ideas and greater diversity to the university environment, many of them stay after graduation, making research and innovation from some of the best minds in the world available to U.S. companies and organizations.

But major world events can have a significant impact on foreign enrollment. The numbers saw a steep drop after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and then lost momentum again after 2006 as the recession affected international students' ability to afford travel and tuition.

In 2004, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) began studying patterns in graduate applications, admissions and enrollment. They recently published phase two of the 2011 International Graduate Admissions Survey, which reports on final applications and initial offers of admission.

The CGS found that international applications increased 11% in 2011. Although this is the sixth consecutive year of overall growth in applications, it's the first major increase since 2006. Offers of admission also saw an 11% increase, which is both the largest increase since 2006 and a significant gain over the past few years: There was a one percent drop in offers of admission to foreign students in 2009 and only a three percent increase in 2010.

Most of the increase in admissions comes from a 23% growth in offers to Chinese students, who have now seen six straight years of double-digit annual increases. Admissions from India, which is second only to China in the number of students it sends to the U.S., increased by eight percent. South Korea is the third-largest source of international students at American schools, but admissions to South Korean students remained flat this year, although that may be seen as an improvement after four years of decline.

Based on these figures, the director of the CGS told The Chronicle of Higher Education that American schools will 'almost certainly' see an increase in foreign enrollment in the fall. The number of students who enroll is typically within a few percentage points of the number of admitted students. The CGS reports that international students comprise a little over 15% of all graduate students currently enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities.

Some U.S. colleges and universities hope to utilize the connections formed through foreign enrollment to improve global data collection.

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