Statistics

International Students in the US Enrollment Statistics 2022

A comprehensive overview of the US enrollment statistics for international students. Get all the information you need to help you make an informed choice.
5 Minutes

Over the last couple of years, there's been a surge in the enrollments of international students in the US. It is without a doubt that the United States has led the world in higher education. Currently, more than a million students are enrolling annually in different US colleges and universities.

Having remained one of the country's biggest competitive advantages, the strength of the US higher education system has continuously attracted talented individuals from around the globe.

Get more insights into the current higher education status for international students studying in the US based on OpenDoor statistics.

Understanding the Enrollment Statistics

The enrollment trends in US colleges have faced several oscillations between the years 2004 and 2021. There was an upward trend in the total enrollment between 2004 and 2010. The total enrollment peaked in 2010, totaling up to 21 million enrollments recorded in that year. Following this, the number of total enrollment plummeted from 2011 to 2021.

Much of the rise in the numbers in 2010 was directed towards the great recession of 2008 to be the leading cause of higher enrollments. The Hechinger's report on this subject speculated that due to the 2008 recession there was a great deal of unemployment in the economy. This eventually lowered the confidence of many and provoked them to continue their education to further assist their career.

The entire debacle according to the article was a 2-year process of deliberation among the students. Finally, producing a high number by the end of 2010.

On the contrary, from the data presented on Statista the number of international student enrollments had increased exponentially between the years 2004 and 2019, reaching a peak of  519,046 enrollments in the year 2019 as seen in the graph below. The number was met with a rapid fall by 77,037 in the next 2 years.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of international students signing up for US colleges had depreciated more. The virus enforced travel bans and visa restrictions, that had swayed students' decision against applying to the US for higher education.

The fall in the numbers, however, did not send the crowd into a frenzy. According to an article by CNN Business on the drop in college enrollment rates, some remained optimistic about the lower numbers and suggested that students have opted to work instead of pursuing higher education. In hindsight, this could be more beneficial for the economy due to the higher employment rate and thus a higher income per capita.

Others have refuted this phenomenon as they believed that securing a degree will only set solid grounds for young people to earn more. Based on the speech made by President Obama, he corroborated that by stating "A college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class".

Top 10 states by enrollment

The graph and statistical data below showcase the top ten states in the US that enrolled international college students (2004-2021) ranked from highest to lowest in population.

  • California has the highest number of enrolled international students according to the list, having enrolled a total of 1,394,353 international students.
  • New York has 971,448 enrolled international students. This makes it the second most popular state in terms of international student enrollment from 2004 to 2021.
  • Texas is the third most popular state in terms of the number of enrolled international students in the US with 636,227 students enrolled.
  • Massachusetts has 509,046 international students enrolled.
  • 319,115 international students are enrolled in Pennsylvania.
  • Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, and Washington have roughly 1/5th the population of California and 1/4th the population of New York in terms of international students enrolled.
Inernational student enrollment by state

Top 10 cities by enrollment

The graph and statistical data below showcase the top ten cities in the US that have enrolled international college students (2004-2021) ranked from the highest to lowest in population.

  • New York City has the highest number of enrolled international students according to the list, having enrolled a total of 513,938 international students.
  • Los Angeles has 362,860 enrolled international students. This makes it the second most popular city in terms of international student enrollment.
  • Boston has a number of 318,172 international students enrolled from 2004 to 2021.
  • 172,536 international students have been enrolled in Houston.
  • 163,078 international students have been enrolled in Champaign
  • West Lafayette, Seattle, Tempe, San Francisco, and Cambridge have the lowest numbers of enrollment for international students ranging from less than 150,000 to more than 120,000 individually.
International student best cities in the US

Top 10 institutions by enrollment

The statistical data below showcases the top ten institutions in the US that have enrolled international college students (2004-2021) ranked from highest to lowest in population.

  • 195,431 international students have been enrolled at New York University, making it the most populated college in terms of total international students enrolled from 2004 to 2021.
  • University of Southern California has enrolled 186,873 international students. This is the second-highest number of total international students enrolled in a US college.
  • Columbia University has enrolled 172,227 international students.
  • 163,078 international students have been enrolled University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign.
  • Purdue University - West Lafayette, University of California - Los Angeles, and Arizona State University - Tempe have all enrolled around 140,000 international students individually in the years 2004-2021.
  • Boston University has enrolled 121,276 international students while University of Michigan - Ann Arbor has enrolled 116,456 international students, ranking the two colleges near the bottom of the list.
  • Pennsylvania State University - University Park has enrolled 107,767 international students, making it the lowest populated college on the list, international student enrollment wise.
Best institutions for international students in the US

Enrollment by Degree type

The number of international students enrolled in the US from 2004 to 2021 can be broken down into separate categories according to the specific degree types. These are

  • 4,193,277 international students in the US have enrolled for their Doctorate degrees. This means the majority of international students with enrollment are individuals seeking PhDs.
  • 942,602 international students in the US have enrolled in Master's degrees.
  • 843,102 international students in the US have enrolled for an Associate degree.
  • 380,792 international students in the US enrolled in Special degrees.
  • 222,322 international students in the US enrolled in bachelor's degrees. This is the lowest number when compared to the other categories.

Enrollment by session and degree type

The data presented below showcases the number of enrollment by session and degree type from the years 2003 to 2021.

  • Associate degrees have seen a steady rate of 40,000-50,000 enrollments every year except for 2020-2021 (the COVID-19 pandemic played a major role) This is the third-highest category for international student enrollment.
  • Bachelors degrees have stayed around the 10,000 mark until 2011 onwards when it has experienced an increase in enrollment.
  • Doctorate degrees have grown considerably in terms of enrollment from 2003 to 2021. With numbers going above 300,000 starting from 2015 onwards. This shows that it is the highest enrolled degree for International students in the US.
  • Masters degrees are the second-highest category in terms of international student enrollment in the US. Numbers have seen slow but steady increases over the years. However, from 2020 to 2021 the numbers fell considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Special degrees have increased over the years with a slow and steady growth rate. Compared to the other categories, the numbers were not affected as much as the others were affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enrollment by Geography

International students are dispersed all over the USA, notably in a few states that have seen a surge of international enrollments between the years 2004-2021. The 5 major states made up 3,830,189 of the total enrollments in the 17 years.

  • California reported the highest total enrollments, accumulating a total of 1,394,353 international enrollments.
  • New York was a close second with a total enrollment of 971,448.
  • Texas takes third place with an enrollment of 636,227 international students.
  • Massachusetts reported a total of 509,046 international enrollments between the 17 years.
  • With a total of 319,115 enrollments, Pennsylvania has the lowest number of total enrollments in the table.

Enrollment projections

Will the enrollment of international students in the US see an increase in the upcoming academic years? This is undoubtedly a very common question given the current situation of the world, especially amongst international students looking to study in the US.

According to IIE data, the vast majority of US institutions intend on bringing international students back to campus. Which is great news for you lot! Moreover, 43% of institutions reported an increase in their international student applications for 2021-2022. And 59% of doctoral universities saw an increase in applications.

Many universities have been actively taking up initiatives for international students such as streamlining application and admissions processes, allowing online testing instead of in-person testing, waiving standardized testing requirements instead of certain credentials, etc. Other services such as financial aid, special housing, crisis management, etc. have also been increased to help international students cope with their post-pandemic struggles.

All said, it is safe to assume that the enrollment rates and numbers will see many increases moving onwards. The world has already begun to adjust to the global pandemic that impacted every life in all corners of the globe.

Helping International Students in the US Find Jobs

One of the biggest challenges faced by international students in the US or F1 Visa holders is finding jobs. The system is can be quite tricky to maneuver and without assistance from genuine people, your hopes of achieving the American Dream can go close to zero.

This is the main reason we formed Algorizin!

At Algorizin, we understand the unique challenges that international students in the US face. Our solution to this problem is simple: We help international students in the US land a well-paying tech job within 3 months.

What's more, we created a mentor-mentee platform where we bring industry professionals from top US companies to take our students through various career coaching tips and in-house lawyers to resolve all your immigration woes.

Interested in learning more about our methodology? Give us a call today and discover what more you can get as an international student in the US.

This post was created with the help of OpenDoor data from Algorizin's alumnus Jonathan Adjugah. You can connect with Jonathan through his LinkedIn.

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