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Why are international student numbers in America so high?

Read why more students than ever have travelled to America for study abroad.

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While the UK has experienced a steep decline in their number of incoming international students in the last year, America can proudly declare the opposite.

In the academic year 2011-2012, over 760,000 students from abroad studied in America. This is excellent news for not just the education community, but the nation as a whole; in a recession, these students brought with them just under $23 billion for the nation’s economy.

This news indicates that America remains a premier destination for higher education abroad, even with growing competition from Asia, in the form of Singapore and Malaysia.


Below are four reasons why students still flock to America to study:

Recognisable institutions

While we may not realise it, when we watch a Hollywood film like The Social Network, or read about Mark Zuckerberg’s beginnings, we are exposed to the names of highly-regarded institutions like Harvard (they may even be in the name of the film, as is the case with St. Cloud State University and the film Charlie St. Cloud). These quickly become what we associate when we come across terms like ‘university’ and ‘college’ (especially if higher education isn't as accesible in our country). We’re also associating these institutions with producing successful graduates, whether we realise it or not. This is sometimes a little reductive as there are many, many more reputable institutions in the US aside from those two examples. However we’re more likely to hear about particular institutions which specialise in politics or media/creative arts fields, as those in these fields are more widely publicised. However, the result is that the American higher education system as a whole becomes highly-regarded.


High standards

In any country, the national media can be very quick to report on negative stories – the public love bad news apparently. For the education sector, this is often concerning the quality of teaching. However, these can be very pessimistic points of view, focusing on minor aspects. In reality, most would find the quality of education in countries like the US or the UK to be very high in comparison to the rest of the world, with options and facilities readily available that wouldn’t be elsewhere.


Way of life

Several leading universities in America are located in cosmopolitan, modern cities with a lot to do – states like Florida have a very aspirational quality to them which is recognised internationally. America is also a very diverse, tolerable democracy for the most part, which may not be appreciated by those who have lived there all their life. Also, in recent years the inauguration of an African-American president in Barack Obama has opened up a lot of people’s eyes. For someone coming from another country which is somewhat unstable or deprived, America can be considered to offer a very free, prosperous way of life – a huge departure from what they have known.


Long-term plans

The “American Dream” – long celebrated in American lore – is the idea that even those with very little can overcome struggles to achieve social mobility and greatness (whether in the form of fame, money, respect etc.). It is mostly associated with the image of immigrants, coming to America by boat, and being greeted by the Statue of Liberty. This image is still somewhat relevant and applicable to international students today who move to the US to study hard and begin a new life there for good. However, we are firm believers that one should always see study abroad in terms of education primarily, and not immigration.


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About Author

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Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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