Study examines the international student population in the United States, covering topics such as countries of origin, regional distribution, and economic impact

The top receiving country for international students has long been the United States, although there has been a recent decline in international enrollment due to immigration restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic. “International Students in the United States,” published by the Migration Policy Institute, offers a portrait of international students in the U.S. and explores the reasons for this recent, sharp decline. Using data from NAFSA: Association of International Educators as well as the Institute of International Education, the authors discuss the academic levels of international students, as well as their countries of origin, fields of study, geographic distribution, overall economic impact, and opportunities for transition into the U.S. labor market. The authors also include data on international students who were able to participate in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program after graduation. The report finds a 16 percent decline in international students enrolled at U.S. universities from semester years 2018-2019 to 2019-2020, capping a decade of slowing growth due to the rising cost of U.S. higher education, high numbers of student visa delays and denials, a difficult political environment for immigrants under the Trump administration, and expanded opportunities to study in other countries. (Stephanie Depauw for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)


International Students in the United States
Migration Policy Institute, January 14, 2021, 9 pp.
Authors: Emma Israel & Jeanne Batalova