US hosting 1.1 million international students

27 March, 2015

Some 1.13 million international students were enrolled on courses in the US on F-1 (academic) and M-1 (vocational) visas in February, a 14 per cent increase compared with the same period last year, according to data released by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

International students in the USA on F-1 and M-1 visas, Feb 2015 compared with Oct 2014. Source - Sevis by the Numbers, Student and Exchange Visitor Program

The latest Sevis by the Numbers quarterly report issued by SEVP, part of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), recorded 1,132,636 overseas students, which was a 1.8 per cent increase over the previous quarter. In addition to academic students, there were an additional 200,799 students on the J-1 exchange visa.

The SEVP report showed that 855,807 students – 76 per cent of all international students – were from Asia, a two per cent increase compared with the previous quarter, and seven of the top eight source countries were from the Asian continent, although it should be noted SEVP is including Saudi Arabia within this data.

China was comfortably the largest source market with 331,371 students, although growth over the previous quarter slowed to 0.4 per cent. There were notable increases over the last quarter from India (9 per cent), Vietnam (11 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (4.9 per cent).

In total there were 8,979 institutions certified by SEVP to accept international students in February. Only 30 schools had more than 5,000 international students enrolled, while 76 per cent of approved schools had between zero and 50 overseas students. The University of Southern California was the largest host campus with 12,480 students, followed by Purdue University (10,516) and Columbia University (10,436).

In terms of level of education: 374,162 international students were enrolled on bachelor’s programmes; 313,953 were pursuing master’s degrees, 135,969 studied at doctorate level; and 105,173 were on long-term language training. Short-term, non-student visa students are not captured within the data.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects accounted for 37 per cent of all F-1 and M-1 students, and engineering was the most popular of these with 175,540 students.

For the first time this quarter, SEVP has released an interactive mapping tool of international student data.

Meanwhile, ICE recently announced that three individuals have been indicted for allegedly operating a network of schools that fraudulently allowed international students to stay in the country without attending classes.

The schools names in the ‘pay-to-stay’ allegation were: Prodee University/Neo-America Language School; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Educational Centre; the American College of Forensic Studies (all in Los Angeles, CA); and Likie Fashion and Technology College in Alhambra.

Investigators have estimated that the fraud scheme took as much as US$6 million per year in tuition payments. Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) officials began investigating the network in 2011. Officials said that several foreign nationals, primarily from Korea and China, had entered the US on F-1 visas to attend other SEVP-accredited schools and then transferred to the Prodee network.

“Immigration fraud schemes potentially compromise national security and cheat foreign nationals who play by the rules,” said Acting US Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “In this case, officials at several schools allegedly abused their responsibility to ensure that only legitimate foreign students were allowed to the stay in the country. This type of fraud against the United States will be thoroughly examined to bring those responsible to justice and to protect the integrity of our immigration system.”

ICE has published an assistance message for international students that were enrolled at the network of schools.

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