Charting New Pathways to Higher Education: International Secondary Students in the United States (IIE)

SH-Charting-New-Pathways-To-Higher-EducationAccording to an Institute of International Education (IIE) report released earlier this month, there were 73,019 international secondary students in the U.S., encompassing students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in both public and private schools last October.   International students enrolled in US high schools to earn a diploma have more than tripled in number since 2004.

Among the leading places of origin, Chinese and South Korean students comprise 44% of the total, while at the postsecondary level 37% of international students hail from these two countries.  67% of international secondary students hold F-1 visas and 33% hold J-1 visas, which generally distinguishes those attending boarding schools vs. their peers who are participating in exchange programs.

Surprisingly, Vietnam ranks 6th – in the same tier as Brazil (#5) and Mexico (#4).  This means that last year 12.4% of all Vietnamese students were attending a US high school or boarding school and 87.5% were enrolled in an institution of higher education. 2,052 were on a F-1, while 237 were on a J-1 visa.  They comprised 3.1% of all international secondary students.

The implications are obvious:  1) more parents are sending their sons and daughters to study in the US and other countries at an earlier age; and 2) the large numbers of international high school students creates yet another recruitment pipeline for US colleges and universities.

Top places of origin of intl secondary and postsecondary students in the US, 2013

Below is an excerpt from a press release issued by IIE about the study.  Follow this link to download the report (PDF, 950 KB).

NEW YORK, July 8, 2014—A new report published today by the Institute of International Education, “Charting new pathways to higher education: International secondary students in the United States,” provides comprehensive analysis on the more than 73,000 inbound international students who come to the United States for high school, and what the trends mean for higher education enrollments and recruitment.

The new IIE report looks closely at where the students come from and where they study—with breakdowns by U.S. state and types of schools. It provides narrative analysis and data tables that compare specific numbers and trends for international students at the secondary level with those for international students in higher education in the United States.

“While secondary school students from around the world have been coming to the United States on high school exchange programs for many years, IIE’s new analysis shows that the number of students who enroll directly in U.S. schools to earn a U.S. high school diploma now significantly outnumbers those who are here on exchanges,” said IIE’s Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation, Rajika Bhandari. “This is a remarkable finding, and one which has implications for U.S. higher education.”

Highlights from the report include:

  • In October 2013 there were 73,019 international students pursuing a secondary-level education in the United States, with 48,632 or 67 percent of these enrolled for a full diploma.
  • The number of international students enrolled directly in U.S. secondary programs more than tripled from fall 2004 to fall 2013, while the number of exchange students grew only about 15 percent during the same period.
  • Most of the nearly 49,000 diploma-seeking students at U.S. high schools are from Asia (with 46% of this segment coming from China).
  • The majority (66%) of the roughly 24,000 high school students who come to the U.S. on cultural exchange programs are from Europe.
  • Compared to Australia, Canada, and the UK, the U.S. hosts a much larger number of secondary students, which is also the case at the postsecondary level.


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