International Student University Enrollment

International Student University Enrollment

During our secondary data search, we were enlightened to the many issues, which face an international student when choosing a university. In this paper we would like to first highlight trends of international student enrollment in American universities. Next, we will discuss the advantages of studying in the United States. Finally, we would like to list some of the many reasons that an international student may choose a certain university.

Trends in Enrollment

The study of enrollment trends in groups of international students shows how changes in a university’s environment and characteristics will affect its total enrollment (Paulsen). According to the Institute for International Education, the number of international students studying at American colleges and universities increased by 5.1 percent in the 1997-98 school year to a total of 481,280 (Honan). Fifty-percent of these students enter universities as undergraduates with the rest entering to pursue a graduate or professional education. ( Remarkably, fifty-percent of those undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges (Backman, 1984), and according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, twice as many international students are enrolled in community colleges as where ten years ago (Desruissueaux, 1998).

Increases in enrollment may be attributed to many factors. William Honan of the New York Times attributes this increase in enrollment to increased overseas recruiting, the Asian economic crisis, and the decreased cost of community colleges. Economic factors may effect enrollment trends more than any other factor. For example, enrollment may be effected positively from decreasing opportunities for non-college graduates which may be caused by recession (Paulsen and Pogue, 1988). International students come from many different parts of the world. Statistics show that: 5% come from Africa, 58% from Asia, 14% from Europe, 10% from Latin America, 7% from the Middle East, and 5% from Canada ( Over the last ten years, there has been an increase in students from East Asia, South Central Asia, and South East Asia. There has been a moderate increases in students from Europe and Canada, but a decline in enrollment of students from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America (Ubadigbo, 1997).

Advantages of Studying in the United States

Due to the recent globalization of the economy, it is perceived that students with international experience have a competitive edge in the job market. The Study Abroad Foundation also cites that, “Greater self-confidence, improved intercultural understanding, deepened empathy for others and improved knowledge of global affairs are all tangible benefits of studying abroad.” Believing these statements to be true, international students feel there are many advantages to studying in the United States. According to Zikopoulos and Barber, “the main attraction of foreign study in the United States was the perceived high quality of education here.” The quality is primarily due to a broad variety of classes with modern facilities such as computer labs and libraries (Bucklew). The United States is also home to many well know institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Cornell (Desruisseaux 1998). The prestige of studying at one of these universities may add considerable value to an international student’s professional development.

Many international students feel that studying in the United States will broaden their cultural awareness as well as allowing them to make contacts with colleagues in the United States.

Reasons for Choosing a University

American universities have increasingly attracted international students for a variety of reasons. Many of these reasons include:
· Admission Requirements
· Academic Reputation/ Quality of Instruction
· School Size
· Geographical Location
· Weather/Climate
· School Setting (city or rural)
· Financial Aid
· Student Body Population
· Social Atmosphere
· Student Services
· Mentor Program
· International Academic advising
· Cost
· Assistance with obtaining a visa

A university must consider all of these factors before actively recruiting prospective international students. While considering this, they must also take into account how their university will suit the needs of the perspective international student (McDonnell, 1995)(Buckelew).


In pursuing these avenues of research, we have perceived new insight as to why international students choose the United States for their higher education. With these new insights, we would like to help Southeastern increase their international student population while gaining insight to the needs of their existing population.



Chase, A. M., & Mahoney, J.R. (Eds). (1996). Global awareness in community colleges: A report of a national survey. Washington, D.C: Community College Press. (ED 395 610)

Desruisseaux, P. (1998, December 11). 2-year colleges at crest of wave in U.S. enrollment by