Despite recent visa regulations and overall decrease in the international student enrolments, India has surpassed China as the leading place of origin for international students in the United States for the second consecutive year.
A record 74,603 Indian students came to study in the US in the year 2002-2003, overtaking China (64,757), which topped the list for the past several years.
Indians now constitutes 13 per cent of the total 586,323 international students, according to Open Doors 2003 annual report on international education published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the state department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
After five years of steady growth, the number of international students attending colleges and universities in the United States in 2002/03 showed only a slight increase over the prior year.
Despite decreases in the number of students from some countries, several major sending countries saw strong increases, including India, Korea, and Kenya.
Number of the Indian students has more than doubled in less than a decade, from 34,796 in 1993/94 to 74,603 in 2002/2003.
US experts attribute this increase in the Indian student enrolment to the competitive education system in Indian higher education.
"The statistics in Open Doors 2003 show that there were 8,614 more graduate students from India than in the previous year, and a decline of 500 undergraduates. The decline in undergraduate students may well be a one year aberration, but one wonders whether parents are more cautious about sending younger students away from home in view of world conditions," says Prof Jane E Schukoske, Executive Director, US Education Foundation in India.
"Several factors signal that the growth in Indian students in the U.S. will continue. Indians respect and invest in higher education as a pathway to family success and contribution to society. In view of population growth, there will likely be more students in higher education than the Indian education system can absorb," Prof Schukoske adds.
Other leading countries that follow India and China in the number of students sent to the US include Korea (51,519 up 5%), Japan (45,960 down 2%), Taiwan (28,017 down 3%), Canada (26,513 unchanged), Mexico (12,801 up 2%), Turkey 11,601 down 4%), Indonesia (10,432 down 10%), and Thailand (9,982 down 14%).
The presence of Indian and Chinese students in US is obvious in all the major universities, be that Harvard, MIT, Rutgers, University of Texas, Austin, University of Houston or Rice University. American students sometimes comment 'at times it appears they are foreign in these universities amidst Indian and Chinese population'.
For the slump-hit US economy, international education is big business. Foreign students now contribute $12 billion annually to the US economy.
Nearly 75% of all international students funding comes from personal and family sources or other sources outside the United States. The Department of Commerce has been candid enough to concede that higher education is the country's fifth largest service sector export.
According to the report, New York City has more international students than any other metropolitan area. The Los Angeles area hosts the second highest number of foreign students (29,486), followed by Boston (24,160), Washington DC (20,678), Chicago (17,319), Philadelphia (11,373), Houston (10,526), Dallas (10,199), and San Francisco (8,393).
California is the leading host state for international students (up 2% to 80,487), followed by New York (up 3% to 63,773), Texas (up 3.3% to 45,672), Massachusetts (up less than 1% to 30,039), and Florida (down 4% to 27,270) and Illinois (up 6% to 27,116).
While California is the leading host state for international students, the largest numbers of Indian students study in Texas. With Indian enrolments on the rise generally, this concentration of Indians in Texas helps explain the finding in Open Doors 2003 that Texas had the strongest growth with 7925 students, which represents 17.4% of the total international students enrolment in Texas, according to IEE officials.
According to the study 'Mathematics and Computer Science' is no longer the fastest growing major for students as it has decreased by 6%. Now the most popular fields of study for international students are business management (20%) engineering (17%).
In addition, Indians tend to study at large research institutions mostly in the engineering, science, and mathematical fields, IEE officials say.