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Monday, November 20, 2023

Indian international students outnumbered Chinese students for the first time


For the first time since 2009, India has surpassed China in terms of the number of students studying in the United States. According to DHS statistics, as of September 2023, there were 320,000 Indian students studying in America, while the number of active Chinese student was 254,000.

For many years, China was the dominant source of F-1 international students, representing roughly one-third of foreign student populations. Covid-19 essentially halted the issuance of F-1 visas to foreign students for many months in 2021, including those from China.  In 2021, the number of Indian students increased by 12% while the number of Chinese students dropped 8%.  

As the U.S. gradually relaxed the entry and vaccination requirements for foreign students in 2022, the total number of active F-1 and M1 students rebounded to 1,362,157, representing a 10% increase from 2021.

Although the U.S. gradually reopened in 2022, China was still holding on to its "zero-Covid" policy. Even so, China still had more students studying in the U.S. than India that year.  The number of Chinese and Indian students studying in the U.S. were respectively 324,196 and 297,151.  However, the tide has finally turned in 2023.  There are several reasons for this reversal.

The rise of India's middle-class population has propelled the growth in foreign studies.  Recent reports show that India's middle class has increased five-fold in the last nine years.  Education is highly valued by Indian parents, just like their counterparts in China.  It is only natural that they want to send their children to study in the U.S., where many world-class educational institutions are located. 

For Chinese students, they were initially deterred by the anti-Chinese rhetoric during the pandemic, which resulted in a huge surge in Asian-hate crimes. A Trump-era policy of refusing visas to Chinese students and scholars with military ties has also contributed to the decline of the number of Chinese students.  The struggling Chinese economy also makes it more difficult for middle-class families to send their children abroad. 

Chinese students also have other options for education, such as U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc., other than America.  If they sense that they are not welcome here, they are less inclined to apply for American schools. The limited number of work visas (H-1B) after graduation has also forced some Chinese students to depart. 

This is not to say that Chinese students have stopped coming to the U.S.  For K-12 education, China remains the number one country, sending 13,565 students to the U.S. in 2022, representing 25.3% (13,565) of all international students, followed by South Korea, which accounted for 7.6% (4,076) of K-12 foreign students.  

The economic benefits of international students are significant to the United States. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, in just the 2021/22 academic year, college-level international students contributed $33.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 335,000 jobs. Some of these students, like Elon Musk, may go on to found multi-billion companies that will bring immeasurable benefits to American society. 

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