Study in America: Top 5 countries sending students to US

A record number of international students – 690,923 – attended colleges and universities in the United States during the 2009-10 academic year, according to the just-released "Open Doors" report. Which countries sent the most students? Here is a countdown of the top five places, using data from the Institute of International Education, which publishes this survey annually.


Victoria Chern from Taiwan (c.) participates in a summer program at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. (Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File)

Taiwan, which was No. 6 in the survey for the 2008-09 academic year, moved up a notch in the new annual rankings. It sent nearly 27,000 students to America for 2009-10, which is actually a 4.9 percent decrease from the year before. In fact, its numbers have been declining pretty steadily since its peak in the 1993-94 school year, when nearly 38,000 students came from here. About 55 percent of Taiwan’s students in the US are at the graduate level, and almost 25 percent are undergraduate students (with the remaining percentage in “other” categories).


Mathias Crawford of Toronto, Canada, surfs the Web in his dorm at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., in 2002. (Michael Manning/AP/File)

More than 28,000 from Canada studied in the US in the 2009-10 academic year – down about 5 percent from its record high of 29,697 students in 2008-09. The 2009-10 number was good enough, however, for Canada to keep the No. 4 spot in the survey. Slightly more Canadian students come to the US for undergraduate degrees than graduate degrees.

South Korea

From left: Hyemin Park, Krishna Pokharel, and Yihan Zhong, students from Korea, Nepal and China, take a break from class in the lounge of the South Dakota State University Multicultural Center in Brookings, S.D., last month. (Vicki Schuster/Brookings Register/AP)

South Korea sent more than 72,000 students to America for the 2009-10 academic year, which is down almost 4 percent from the year before. Yet this country has held the No. 3 ranking in the survey since 2001-02. Some 50 percent of South Korean students in the US are at the undergraduate level, and about 32 percent are graduate students.


Indian students attend class at a cram school in Kota, India, in this Aug 5 photo. Every year, more than 450,000 students take the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) exam, hoping for entry to the hallowed public engineering institutes located across the country. (Saurabh Das/AP)

India was the top supplier of students to the US from the 2001-02 academic year to 2008-09, but in the latest data, it slips one rung. Still, the percentage of students from India in America increased 1.6 percent between 2008-09 and 2009-10. That translates to nearly 105,000 students during 2009-10. The majority of Indian students in the US are at the graduate level, with a much smaller percentage – about 15 percent – doing undergraduate work. Students from India represent a little over 15 percent of America’s total international student population. This country was one of the few left relatively unaffected by the global recession.


Quinzeng Peng of China studies with other foreign graduate students at Boston University who are training to become teaching assistants. ( Alexander Colhoun/The Christian Science Monitor/File)

China, which had the No. 2 ranking in this survey from the 2001-02 academic year to 2008-09, moves up to the top spot in the latest data. Nearly 128,000 from China studied in the US in 2009-10 – an impressive 30 percent increase from the previous year. The big factor driving China’s surge is increased desire for a US undergraduate degree. While the bulk (just over half) of Chinese students still come to the US for graduate-level studies, about 31 percent are now here as undergrads – more than four times as many as five years ago.

“We anticipate that those numbers will keep climbing,” says Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president of the Institute of International Education. Students from China make up more than 18 percent of international students in America.