During the 2015-16 academic year, the United States had more than one million international students in the country for the first time ever (Institute of International Education, 2016). Last year, these students contributed 32.8 billion dollars to the economy and created or supported 400,812 jobs nationwide (NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool, n.d.). International students, who are ineligible for federal financial aid and may also be ineligible for some other forms of scholarships or grants, provide a key revenue stream to universities, especially public schools that are able to charge rates higher than the in-state tuition that they may charge a majority of their students. According to one study, the top three reasons international students study abroad are generally the higher quality of education offered in the host country, career advancement, and the opportunity to live abroad, however for students studying in the United States, the main focus is on their career advancement (Morgan, 2010). International students largely major in STEM fields (which made up 44% of the student population in one recent year), which currently generally allow them an extended, 36-month work period (known as OPT) following their graduation, however the specific STEM fields differ. Another significant chunk of students focuses their studies on business and management (Zong and Batalova, 2016). Additionally intensive English programs remain prominent and schools have developed their own programs or participate in various pathway programs with external providers, which have come under increased regulatory scrutiny recently.
Some of the challenges that international students face in the US are the fact that it may leave a student less prepared for a particular career track back home due to the liberal arts nature of the higher education system, the fact that study in certain fields may not be equivalent to the subject in the home country, and the tuition cost that largely limits an American university education to those who would only be considered part of the highest class in their home country (McKenna, 2015; Stahl, 2011). Ultimately, this seems to demonstrate that an American education may not be attainable or even desirable to international students despite the potential benefits it could provide.
Institute of International Education. (2016). International student enrollment trends, 1948/49-2015/16. Retrieved November 18, 2016, from http://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/International-Students/Enrollment-Trends/1948-2016
McKenna, L. (2015, November 18). The globalization of America’s colleges. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/globalization-american-higher-ed/416502/
Morgan, J. (2010, September 30). What motivates international students? Retrieved November 19, 2016, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/09/30/foreign
NAFSA international student economic value tool. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2016, from http://www.nafsa.org/Policy_and_Advocacy/Policy_Resources/Policy_Trends_and_Data/NAFSA_International_Student_Economic_Value_Tool/
Stahl, J. (2011, May 17). Don’t study in the US: Part 2, a deeper look at the pros and cons. Retrieved from http://blogs.voanews.com/student-union/2011/05/17/dont-study-in-the-us-or-how-to-make-an-informed-choice-part-2/
Zong, J., & Batalova, J. (2016, May 11). International students in the United States. Retrieved November 19, 2016, from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/international-students-united-states