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China sends highest number of international students to US: report

The number of Chinese students enrolled in American institutions of higher education in the 2016-2017 academic year increased by 6.8 percent to 350,755 students from the previous academic year's 328,547 students, claiming the top spot among countries sending students to the US for the eighth year in a row, according to a report.

The Institute of International Education, an independent non-profit organization operating a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide, issued its latest 2017 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange at the US Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday.

According to the 2017 Open Doors Report, an annual report on international academic mobility, 32.5 percent of all international students studying in US universities and colleges came from China in the 2016-2017 academic year, which was the leading place of origin for students coming to the US followed by India and South Korea.

However, the 6.8 percent growth rate for the 2016-2017 academic year was a record low since the 2006-2007 academic year. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the number of Chinese students studying in US universities and colleges grew 8.1 percent.

Downplaying the relatively slower growth rate, Nancy Chen, an education specialist at the US Embassy in Beijing, said that the Open Doors Report just showed the change in the number of Chinese students studying in the US for a certain period of time, saying that the growth momentum remained strong.

The 2016-2017 academic year is the third academic year in a row that the number of undergraduate students from China surpassed the number of graduate students. In the 2016-1017 academic year, there were 142,851 Chinese undergraduate students, representing an increase of 5.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the 2017 Open Doors Report.

Chinese graduate students in the US numbered 128,320, a 4.1 percent annual increase. Non-degree students and optional practical training students also increased by 13 percent to 19,749 students and 14.6 percent to 59,835 students respectively, said the 2017 Open Doors Report. The large number of optional practical training students reflects the value students see in acquiring work experience after graduation.

The recruitment of Chinese students benefited the US economically. Statistics from the US Department of Commerce showed that Chinese students studying in US universities and colleges contributed $12.55 billion to the US economy last year.

The number of new international students in the US dropped to 290,836, compared with the 2015-2016 academic year when there were 300,743 new international students, showed the 2017 Open Doors Report.

The continuing concerns about campus safety, cost and the complexity of American universities' application process could be seen as factors behind the decreased number of new international students in the US, explained Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education. Goodman called the findings "a wake-up call" that should spur universities and colleges in the US to reassess recruitment strategies.

The release of the 2017 Open Doors Report came as the case of a University of Illinois scholar from China who is suspected to have been abducted and killed caused sensation in the US and China in recent months. The death of the Chinese scholar triggered a sweeping debate on whether the US is a safe country for Chinese students.

Weakened interest in China among American students

The 2017 Open Doors Report also found that China dropped to the sixth most popular destination for American students studying abroad, but it said that China remained the most popular Asian destination with more than 11,689 overseas students in the 2015-2016 academic year.

This number is an 8.6 percent decrease from a year before and represents the continuation of a declining trend over the last four years.

The US Embassy in Beijing said that it will continue to work with numerous Chinese and US organizations to encourage more US students to come to China for educational and cultural exchanges.

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