I was recently at a session at the NAFSA V/VI biregional and the presenter made the comment, “the US may not always be the #1 study abroad destination in the world.” When someone responded with Socratic questioning, “what led you to that belief?” – the answer could have been the Open Doors Report.
Yesterday, the Open Doors Report for 2013 was released and showed that international education is at an all-time high. The United States hosted a record 819,644 international students in the 2012-2013 academic term (up 7%) and 283,332 US students studied abroad (up 3%) in 2011-2012.
Great news for all of us involved in international education. The overwhelming increase for international students was largely due to China who continues to dominate its spot as the #1 sending country with a steady growth of 21.4%. While India still holds the #2 spot, numbers have dropped -3.5% compared to last year. As many of you in recruiting can attest, this drop is in part due to the devaluation of the Rupee which dropped 18% compared to the US dollar.
Scholarships Changing the Face of International Education
Home country scholarships are now changing the playing field of international students. Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Kuwait saw huge growth in numbers due primarily to their scholarship programs. Saudi Arabia, for example, was the #4 sender of students to the US with 44,566 students in the 2012-2013 academic term – a whopping 30.5% increase over last year. Brazil’s Brazil Scientific Mobility Program has hurried growth by 20.4% and Kuwait saw the largest jump of 37.4% of the top 25 sending countries to the US.
This is a big deal. Many schools are seeing huge jumps in their international student body and much of this growth is due in part to these scholarship programs. If funds go away, governmental priorities change, or expansion is curtailed, we could see huge drops in our international student population that we have relied on. From a recruiting perspective, it’s important to think like a portfolio manager – diversification, diversification! Whether we are talking exchange rate risk, scholarship program changes, or governmental policy risk, the key to a good growth strategy is to attract the best and brightest from ALL around the world.
The importance of this can also be seen in the primary source of funding for international students also in the Open Doors. Foreign Government/University and US Government had the highest growth of students reporting that this was their primary source of funding, which grew 30.6% and 34.8% respectively. Even with these increases, still the majority of international students reported that they and their parents paid the bulk of their own costs – which continues to surprise no one. But the growing reliance on governments to provide aid is risky, and should be considered by all schools who are actively recruiting students.