U.S. colleges draw record foreigners

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The number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities grew to a record high last year and USC remained their most popular destination, according to a new study.

The private university had 9,840 international students, about 1,400 more than UCLA, which ranked sixth in the survey conducted by the New York nonprofit Institute of International Education, in partnership with the U.S. State Department.

USC has had the largest number of foreign students for a dozen years in a row.

Overall, the number of international students in U.S. institutions increased by about 7% last year to nearly 820,000. The largest group came from China, which sent about 236,000 students, nearly double the number of students from India, the second-largest group.


Several countries -- including Iran, Brazil and Kuwait -- increased their number of students in the U.S. by at least 20%, but “most of the growth was fueled by the undergraduate Chinese students,” said Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president for research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education.

After two USC Chinese graduate students were fatally shot in April 2012, it was unclear whether the violence would lead to a drop in Chinese enrollment. But that group grew by about 800 students, according to USC statistics. The survey found there were nearly 3,800 Chinese students at USC last fall.

The other countries with the largest groups of students at USC are South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

California attracted the largest number of foreign students nationwide, with about 111,000, followed by New York and Texas, which had 88,000 and 63,000 international students, respectively.

The University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign had the second-most international students with 9,800. Purdue University’s main campus had 9,500 foreign students, placing it third, while New York and Columbia universities ranked fourth and fifth in the survey, respectively.