International enrollment continues to grow — enormously

According to data submitted to IPEDS, UCLA’s international enrollment is up by 158% over 10 years.

According to the newest data from the Institute of International Education (IIE), just under a million international students are studying at colleges and universities across the United States. And in case there’s any doubt about the economic impact of these students, IIE notes that they contributed more than $30 billion to the U.S. economy, with about 73 percent receiving the majority of their funds from sources outside of the U.S., including personal and family sources as well as assistance from home country governments or universities.

For the many colleges actively recruiting students in China and India, the dollars contributed in tuition revenue are more than welcome additions to budgets suffering under the strain of reduced government support and increases in the cost of providing postsecondary education. It’s no surprise that colleges are putting significant resources into everything from sending admissions staff abroad to revamping their websites to appeal to international students.

Information collected and compiled in the IIE’s annual Open Doors survey specifically reveals a ten percent increase in international students from 2013–14 to 2014–15 — the highest annual rate of growth at any point over the last 35 years. International students now constitute almost five percent of the more than 20 million students enrolled in U.S. higher education, growth that is due in part to the small decline in the number of American students enrolled domestically.

Where are the international students going? New York City is the top metropolitan area, followed by Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago — each with approximately a nine percent increase. For the second consecutive year, NYU hosted the largest number of international students with the University of Southern California coming in second. While in 2004–5 there were 145 institutions hosting 1000 or more international students, this year Open Doors reported 245 colleges and universities hosting 1000 or more international students.

To visualize how these numbers work collectively as well as on individual campuses, Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University, used IPEDS trend analysis to chart the enrollment of non-resident students (students who are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents) over time. One set of “tableaus” or charts shows total enrollment since fall 2004 and the other shows “estimated” international enrollment (estimated due to a computational shortcut he uses).

Since 2004, undergraduate and graduate enrollment has increased by about 20 percent. International enrollment, however, has gone up by more than 57 percent. For private not-for-profit institutions, overall enrollment is up by nearly 18 percent, but international enrollment has increased by just under 76 percent.

Assuming much of this increase is among full-pay students, these schools have reaped quite a harvest in tuition dollars since 2004.

The data Boeckenstedt compiled includes all 7,276 postsecondary institutions in the U.S. and can be filtered to produce charts reflecting regional trends as well as enrollment by individual colleges and universities. And the results over ten years are fascinating.

Using the “far west” filter, for example, graduate and undergraduate enrollment has increased in that region of the country by about 15 percent since 2004. International enrollment, on the other hand, is up by nearly 75 percent. Drilling down further with the “institutional” filter, total enrollment at UC Berkeley is similarly up by about 15 percent, but international enrollment has increased by 129 percent. UCLA’s overall enrollment over ten years rose by about 16 percent, with international enrollment increasing by a whopping 149 percent. In fact, the entire University of California system has grown by about 21 percent, with international enrollment up by 158 percent.

Locally, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has experienced about a nine percent rate of overall growth since 2004, while international enrollment has grown by 82 percent. On the other side of town, the University of Richmond appears to have experienced a small 6.5 percent decline in total enrollment, while increasing international students by 320 percent.

To perform your own investigations, visit Boeckenstedt’s Higher Ed Data Stories, and look for the tableaus in The Boom in International Enrollment. Keep in mind, however, the data is only as good as that which is reported by institutions to IPEDS.

This article first appeared on Examiner.com on April 13, 2016.