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Number of international students on U.S. campuses at an all-time high

More than 886,000 students came from foreign countries to study at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2013-14 school year, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.

That included more than 274,400 students from China, who made up 31 percent of all international students studying in the U.S., according to the annual Open Doors report from the Institute for International Education (IIE.)

Overall international students were 4.2 percent of those enrolled in the country’s post secondary institutions, a higher portion than ever before.

While the number of internationals students coming to the U.S. has increased in most of the last dozen years, that growth picked up during the recession. Schools like the University of California’s campuses looked to other countries for students who pay the full sticker price to attend.

But Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president of the IIE, said the globalization of American classrooms has several benefits.

“It’s not just the financial contribution international students make in U.S. classrooms,” she said during a conference call with reporters. “It’s about educating the U.S. students who sit next to them, who become their research partners, that’s how their contributions should be measured.”

A recent report shows the use of agents to recruit foreign students may be growing on U.S. campuses, according to Inside Higher Ed. Some educational consulting agencies have been tied to concerns about cheating on college entrance exams and falsified application materials of Chinese applicants.

The growth in international students studying in the U.S. is unlikely to slow. While China sent the most students to the U.S. by far last year, the fastest growth was among students coming from Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. Almost 43 percent more students came to the U.S. from Kuwait last year compared to the year before. There was a 22 percent increase among students from Brazil and a 21 percent increase of those from Saudi Arabia. All three countries offer national scholarships for students who want to study abroad, according to IIE.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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