The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchanges showed that US institutions of higher education received 974,926 international students in the 2014-2015 academic year, with 31.2% of the international students coming from China. Photo: Wordpress.com
The number of Chinese students enrolled at US universities and colleges increased by 10.8% to 304,040 people in the 2014-2015 academic year, claiming the top spot among the countries sending students to the US for six consecutive years, according to a report on international academic mobility released on Tuesday.
The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchanges, which is released by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, showed that US institutions of higher education received 974,926 international students in the 2014-2015 academic year, representing a record increase of 10 percent for more than three decades, with 31.2% of the international students coming from China, followed by India which holds a share of 13.6 percent.
In the 2013-2014 academic year, American universities and colleges enrolled 886,052 international students, according to the Open Doors Report published last year.
"The US and China agreed to extend the validity of student visas to five years from one year last year. I am glad to tell you that the number of Chinese students applying for student visas has exponentially increased (due to the new visa policy)," Julie Kavanagh, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at US Embassy in Beijing, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
In the 2014 fiscal year, the US embassy and consulates issued student and exchange visitor visas to 328,000 Chinese citizens, accounting for about 30 percent of such visas issued by the US globally, said Kavanagh, adding that the Chinese students studying in the US bring cultural diversity to American campuses and promote mutual understanding between the two countries.
The 2014-2015 academic year also marks the first time that the number of Chinese undergraduate students studying in the US has exceeded the number of those pursuing graduate degrees, according to the 2015 Open Doors Report, as more Chinese students are studying in the US at a younger age.
Lisa Heller, Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at US Embassy in Beijing, said at Tuesday's press conference that the trend (Chinese undergraduate students outnumbering Chinese graduate students in the 2014-2015 academic year) seen for several years is based on the fact that more and more Chinese undergraduate students are paying their own ways to study in the US, compared with 25 years ago when most Chinese students who went to the US were graduate students because they could get university fellowship and government support.
Compared with the previous year, Chinese undergraduate students increased by 12.7 percent to 124,552 students in the 2014-2015 academic year, a figure larger than the combined number of undergraduate students sent by the next six countries after China, said the 2015 Open Doors Report, which found that there were 120,331 Chinese graduate students in the US, an increase of 4% from a year earlier.
In addition, non-degree students and optional practical training (OPT) students from China also soared by 8.7% and 29.1% respectively, said the 2015 Open Doors report.
Heller hailed the strong growth in international student enrollment as an indicator that the US remains the top destination for higher education.
"We are excited to see that a record number of students are taking advantage of international education opportunities. And we applaud the efforts of US higher education as we work together to increase the number of American students who study abroad," Heller quoted Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State, as saying.
Heller also denied reports which described the recent cancellation of 357 Chinese students' Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) results by the SSAT board as a bias toward Chinese students, saying that it is an action by the test board instead of the US government and that the test board's decision is good for maintaining the reliability of the test.
"We welcome more and more Chinese students to study in the US and encourage American students to study in China," said Heller.
China a popular destination for American students
The 2015 Open Doors Report also found that China remains the fifth most popular destination for American students to study abroad, following the UK, Italy, Spain and France.
In the 2013-2014 academic year, there were 13,763 American students studying in China, accounting for 4.5% of all American students studying abroad.
In September 2015, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the One Million Strong Initiative which aims to have one million American K-12 students study Chinese language by 2020.
"Education of Asian languages like Chinese and Japanese for K-12 children is just picking up in the US. But China is catching up fast considering that it now well tops the choices of US students among Asian destinations for study," said Heller.