On November 14, the Institute of International Education (IIE), a group which advocates for and collects data about international student and scholarly travel, released this year’s “Open Doors” data at an event at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The data tracks how many students from around the world come to the United States to study as well as how many American students travel abroad for at some point in their education. I attended the Open Doors event to learn more about the state of international study today.
Here’s the quick data: In 2009-2010, there were 270,604 US students who studied abroad for academic credit, which is an increase of 3.9 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, in 2010-2011, there were 723,277 international students studying in the US, a 4.7% increase from the previous year. Both of these numbers are record highs (the data is available at different times for these figures, which is why one measured the 09-10 academic year and one measured 10-11. Both are the newest figures available).
While IIE mostly focuses on student data, they also presented a few facts about international scholars working in the United States. There were 115,313 of them in the 2010-2011 school year, of whom 75 percent are working in STEM fields. The AAUP has written in the past about some of the problems that foreign scholars run into when trying to work in the US, and has in some specific instanced advocated to let scholars stay in the US.
The officials from IIE who presented the data all seemed very happy about the numbers. Last year had seen a bit of a drop in international travel for students (most likely because of the recession at the time) and to see the numbers go back up is encouraging. They also emphasized that the Department of Commerce estimates that foreign students in the US contributed about $21.1 billion to the economy this year, meaning that international students don’t just bring a diversity of viewpoints to US campuses (and bring some American viewpoints back with them), they help our economy too.