International Student Enrollment Continues to Increase

by Analytics Contributor

Though still below 10% of total U.S. enrollment, the number of international students is growing, contributing to the evolving student population. This shift in demographics has the potential to impact the demand for purpose-built student housing.

The international student data included is from the Institute of International Education. This data shows that the international student population is growing across the United States, but is primarily concentrated in three states: California, New York and Texas.


According to the Institute of International Education, the number of international students in the U.S. reached the one million mark during the 2015-16 school year, when it represented 5.2% of total U.S. enrollment. International enrollment grew by nearly 69,000 students that year, well above the historical average of 25,000 students.

“Students choose U.S. higher education as an investment in their future because of its high quality and diversity of opportunity,” said Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education. The Institute of International Education reports that some of the main causes for increased international student enrollment are:

  • Increased international recruitment efforts by U.S. institutions
  • Improved reputation and visibility of U.S. institutions abroad
  • Growing middle class in other countries
  • Difficulty of acceptance to top institutions in other countries

Where are most of the international students enrolling?

The majority of international students are enrolling at universities in California, New York and Texas, which account for 33% of all international students in the U.S.


In addition to school prestige, climate, cultural diversity and a variety of activities continue to attract international students to California. Almost 150,000 international students were enrolled in California institutions for the 2015-16 school year, an increase of over 14,000 students from Fall 2014. A few California universities with the most international students are:

  • The University of Southern California: Over 13,000 international students are enrolled at USC, accounting for 30.7% of total enrollment in 2015 and representing an increase of over 1,000 international students from the prior year.
  • The University of California-Los Angeles: UCLA had the second highest international student enrollment in the state with more than 11,500 out of their 43,300 total students. This group saw a 12.8% increase compared to Fall 2014, while total enrollment grew by less than 100 students.
  • The University of California-San Diego: UCSD was ranked third with over 7,500 international students.

New York

New York universities had the second largest enrollment of international students in Fall 2015. The group’s attraction to this state can be attributed to highly recognized universities, remarkable history, popular nightlife and the state’s status as a financial center of the world. Over 114,000 international students were enrolled in New York universities in 2015, a 7.1% increase from Fall 2014. A few of the New York universities with the most international student enrollment are:

  • New York University: Over 15,000 international students were enrolled at NYU, accounting for 31.1% of the university’s total enrollment.
  • Columbia University: The second highest international enrollment was at Columbia University, which had over 12,500 international students in 2015.
  • The University at Buffalo SUNY: Received over 7,000 international students, 2.5% more than the year before, and ranking third in New York.


Texas had the third largest share of international students nationwide, with more than 82,000 enrolled in universities across the state in Fall 2015. This is an 8.7% increase compared to Fall 2014. Similar to California, Texas’ rich culture and eventful history may contribute to the state being one of the top choices for international students. Geography may also be a factor influencing growth of this group in Texas, with 8.9% of international students coming from Mexico. The top universities with most international students in Texas are:

  • The University of Texas at Dallas: Over 8,000 international students enrolled for the 2015-16 academic year, making UT Dallas the institution with the most international students in Texas. This group makes up 33.2% of the institution’s total enrollment, an increase of 2.6% from Fall 2014.
  • Texas A&M University: Texas A&M had the second highest number of international students in the state with 6,900, increasing by 3.7% over Fall 2014 and making up 11.9% of the total student body.
  • The University of Texas at Arlington: UT Arlington reported over 6,100 international students enrolled for the 2015-16 academic year, which made up 16.7% of its 37,000 total enrollment.

Most international students seek prestigious schools located in diverse, culture-rich states with a variety of attractions such as California, New York and Texas. The influx if international students to the U.S. typically contributes to the increase in enrollment, the main driver of student housing.