August 8, 2017

A new report focuses attention on the growing pool of international students at American high schools -- many of whom hope to continue their education at American colleges.

The report from the Institute of International Education, “Globally Mobile Youth: Trends in International Secondary Students in the United States, 2013-2016,” found that the number of international students enrolled in American high schools more than tripled from 2004 to 2016, although growth has slowed in recent years. The number of students enrolled directly in American high schools on F-1 visas grew by 8 percent from fall 2013 to fall 2014, by 3 percent in fall 2015 and by 1 percent in fall 2016. Meanwhile, the number of students enrolled through a cultural exchange program on a J-1 visa has fallen in that time, declining by 2 percent each year in 2014 and 2015 and by 4 percent in 2016.

The report found that of the 81,981 international students enrolled in U.S. high schools in fall 2016, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) were directly enrolled on F-1 visas, suggesting an intent to earn an American high school diploma, while just 28 percent were enrolled through a shorter-term cultural exchange program on a J-1 visa. Students on J-1 visas typically return to their home countries to complete their high school educations.

The majority (67 percent) of J-1 exchange students come from Europe, while the majority (78 percent) of diploma-seeking international students come from Asia, with China being the largest sending country by far. More than 94 percent of diploma-seeking international students on F-1 visas enroll in private schools. (U.S. visa regulations prohibit international students from enrolling for more than one year in a public high school.)

The report, authored by IIE’s Christine Farrugia, argues that the growth in numbers of diploma-seeking students means that American high schools are a growing source of international applicants for colleges. However, the report notes, there is limited geographic and economic diversity among these students, most of whom (69 percent) come from East Asia -- primarily China and South Korea -- and from families with the means to pay for an international education.

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