More than 286,000 foreign students -- one- third of them from oil-rich nations -- were enrolled in US colleges and universities during 1979-80, the Institute of International Education reports. There were about 23,000 more foreign students on the nation's campuses than there were the previous year, according to preliminary results of the institute's annual census of foreign students.
The institute polled 3,186 academic institutions, of which 2,950 responded; 2 ,650 reported foreign students from 181 countries. Nearly 60 percent were from Asia, 15 percent from Latin America, 13 percent from Africa, 8 percent from Europe, and the rest from Oceania and North America.
Iran had the most students in this country -- 51,870 -- followed by Taiwan with 17,530; Nigeria, 16,210; Canada, 15,270; and Japan, 12,160. Four members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries were in the top 10 countries of origin, an indication of the priority the oil-rich nations place on higher education. In 1968-69 OPEC nations accounted for only 9 percent of the total; last year they accounted for more than 35 percent of all foreign students.
The University of Southern California had the largest international student population, with 3,305, followed by Los Angeles City College, Miami-Dade Community College, Texas Southern university, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Engineering and business management were the most popular fields of study, followed by the social and natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science.
About 82 percent of the foreign students received their primary support from personal or family funds, their home government, or other sources in their home countries. Only 18 percent were reported as having a US source of funds; of these 9 percent were primarily supported by their academic institution. The US government was the primary source of support for 2 percent of t he foreign students.