Foreign students storm the US: Five facts about who they are

International students flocked to US colleges and universities in record numbers in the 2010-11 academic year.

The number surged nearly 5 percent over the previous year, reaching 723,277, according to the latest annual "Open Doors" report by the Institute of International Education and the State Department. The jump suggests a global hunger for the cachet and opportunity afforded by an American college education – despite the high cost to families and foreign governments.

Foreign students contribute more than $21 billion to the US economy in tuition costs, book-buying, and living expenses – making higher education a top US service-sector export, the report finds. The makeup of international students in the US is changing in some surprising ways. Here are five.

1. Big surge from China

Jay LaPrete/AP/File
Siyi Chen (l.) and Xiaoli Liu were two of Ohio State University's 115 first-year undergraduate students from China in 2008.

The Chinese are big believers in the value of an American education. The number of students from China surged a whopping 23 percent in 2010-2011 to 157,558 – a jump of nearly 30,000 from the year before. That means more than 1 in 5 foreign students in the US is from China. 

Intent perhaps on solving the mystery of global business dominance by American companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Boeing, more than one-quarter of Chinese students in the US are pursuing studies in business and management. Even so, that concentration is still less than the percentage of Vietnamese, Indonesian, and French foreign students in business and management studies. Coming in a close second for Chinese students are engineering and related fields.

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