International Education, United States

OPT program participation in the United States drives new record highs in international student numbers

The Institute of International Education (IIE)’s Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange revealed that there were 15,970 or 1.5% more international students in the United States in the 2017-2018 academic year. Total enrolment figures reached 1,094,790 international students, making the United States by far the world’s leading study destination.

The growth in the international student numbers is driven mostly by the increasing participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program which allows international students to stay in the United States for 12 months after their studies to gain career-related experience or up to 36 months for students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs.

Although the modest enrolment growth is smaller than the past two years, the OPT participants’ numbers rose by 15.8% from 175,695 last year to 203,460 this year. This follows a 20% increase in OPT numbers the previous year.

“International students studying alongside Americans are a tremendous asset to the United States. We need to develop leaders in all fields who can take on our toughest challenges. We need people who can find solutions that keep us secure and make us more prosperous. We want to send a message that international education makes us stronger as a country,” says Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce in the Open Doors report.

International students account for about six percent of the total 20 million post-secondary school enrollees. Chinese students compose one third of U.S. international enrolments and their numbers grew 3.6% in 2017-2018 with 363,340 students compared to 6.8% growth in the previous year. Indian student numbers are also up by 5.4% over last year.

Other countries sending more students to the United States include Brazil, Nepal, Pakistan, Nigeria and Vietnam. Brazil went up 11.7% to 14,620 students while Nepal was up 14.3% to 13,270 students. Pakistan, meanwhile, was up 7.4% to 7,535 students. Nigeria and Vietnam also rose up 8.4% each with 12,695 and 24,325 students, respectively.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students have contributed US$42.4 billion to the American economy in 2017 through tuition, accommodation and living expenses, among others.

EduCo partner institutions in the United States include highly-ranked universities such as Duquesne University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For details on scholarships, degree programs, fees, IELTS and other requirements, international students and education agents may refer to the EduCo Course Finder.