International Student Numbers At U.S. Colleges Grew At The Fastest Rate In 35 Years

Overseas enrollments are a lucrative source of tuition fees for U.S. colleges, and NYU is leading the charge to recruit more.

The number of international students at American colleges rose faster this year than it has in decades, as schools worked harder than ever to lure the lucrative students and their tuition dollars.

International enrollment grew 10% to almost 975,000 students in 2014-2015, the fastest rate in the United States in 35 years, according to a report released Monday by the Institute of International Education. Rather than relying on financial aid, most international students — and the vast majority of undergraduates — finance the full cost of their education themselves, the report said.

Some schools grew their international enrollment even faster than the national average. New York University, which enrolls more international students than any other college in the country, grew its international enrollments by 18% — part of a surge in overseas students heading to NYU in recent years. In 2002, just 4% of NYU students were international.

For NYU, that means sharply increased tuition revenue: the college says it provides only "limited" financial support to international students, and it admits them on a "need-aware" basis — meaning it considers if they can finance their educations when it decides whether or not to admit them.

Last year, Arizona State University shot above the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, UCLA, and Purdue to become the public university with the highest international enrollment. It increased international enrollment by 30% in the space of a single year, according to the report.

At public institutions like Arizona, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign — where a quarter of the school's 43,000 students are international — international students pay significantly more tuition than in-state students, and typically do not receive any institutional aid. Tuition for international students at Illinois is $28,000 a year, compared to $12,000 for in-state students.

Though the highest number of international students — some 300,000 — still come from China, the number of students from India shot up by almost 30% last year. There was an even more dramatic increase in the number of students from Brazil: last year, the country sent about 13,000 students to the United States, this year it sent 23,000, an increase of almost 80%.


Arizona State University has the highest international enrollment of any public university. A previous version of this article said it was the University of Arizona.

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