Overseas students at US high schools increasing

10 July, 2014

The number of international students pursuing full diploma secondary education in the USA has tripled over the last ten years, far outstripping the growth in exchange students, according to new research released by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

International secondary students in the U.S. by world region, 2013, Source – IIE, Charting New Pathways to Higher Education

The research, Charting New Pathways to Higher Education: International Secondary Students in the United States, reports that there were 73,019 international students enrolled at secondary level in October 2013, and 66.6 per cent of these (48,632 students) were full diploma-seeking students on the F-1 visa. The remaining 33.4 per cent held the J-1 exchange programme visa.

The number of overseas students directly enrolled on US secondary programmes has tripled since 2004, while the number of exchange-level students has grown by only 15 per cent in the same period. “This is a remarkable finding, and one which has implications for US higher education,” said IIE’s Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation, Rajika Bhandari.

Asia is comfortably the largest source continent for US secondary schools, accounting for 57 per cent of the total number of international students and 75 per cent of the F-1 students; China alone provided 32.3 per cent overall and 46.3 per cent of diploma-seeking students. Korea was the second-largest source country for secondary students, providing 8,777 students (12 per cent of the total), followed by Germany (9.8), Mexico (3.6) and Brazil (3.1).

The report suggested that Asian students are using secondary education as a pathway into university in the US. “Many Asian students enrol in secondary schools abroad as a pathway to future enrolment in the host country’s higher education system. Growing Asian economies have fuelled the expansion of the middle class in many countries, which is enabling more families to send their children abroad for a Western education, and many children are doing so at younger and younger ages.”

The report found that some nationalities that are major senders of students for university study are negligible presences at secondary level, most notably India and Saudi Arabia, which combined accounted for less than one per cent. Among the factors cited for the disparity were that Indian students have access to English language education at home, while the Saudi scholarship scheme only applies to post-secondary study. The nationality breakdown echoes many of the findings of Study Travel Magazine’s most recent survey of US secondary schools.

Europe is the largest source region for students on the J-1 exchange visa, accounting for 66 per cent of the 24,387 students on this stream. Germany, Italy, Spain and Norway provided significantly more students through J-1 than through the full-diploma F-1 route.

Mirroring the higher education trends revealed in the annual Open Doors survey, California is comfortably the largest host state with 8,573 F-1 students – 18 per cent of the total – followed by New York with 3,805 (eight per cent). The data indicated that most F-1 students enrol on the East and West coasts, while the Midwest is the most popular region for J-1 students. In nine of the top ten host states, China was the largest source country; the sole exception was Texas, where Mexican students accounted for 37 per cent.

In terms of the size of the host institutions, 70 per cent of F-1 students were enrolled at schools with less than 300 pupils. “The concentration of international students in small and mid-size schools is due to the attractiveness of small schools for international students, as well as the efforts of these schools to enrol international students in order to diversify their campuses and boost enrolment,” said the report.

The vast majority of the diploma-seeking international students (95 per cent) are enrolled at private institutions. Current immigration policy restricts F-1 students to no more than one year of study at US public secondary schools.

Although the US has more international students at secondary level than its Anglophone competitors such as the UK, Canada and Australia, the report notes that overseas students constitute only 0.5 per cent of the secondary student total, and indicates there is a large capacity for further growth.

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