US sees a growth to over 10 million international students globally by 2030

A recent outlook report suggests that by 2030, the United States could witness a significant surge in international student enrolment. Projections indicate a rise from six million in 2023 to over 10 million in the six-year period.  


Authored by US. and International Education, Allan Goodman and Mirka Martel, Ph.D., the report “Outlook 2030 Brief: The US. and International Education” sheds light on the driving factors behind this anticipated increase and outlines key trends in academic mobility in the United States. The report also assesses annual results forecasts for 2030 and proposes recommendations for campus planning to accommodate the anticipated growth in international students.  


Utilising comparable data from the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange and new insights from the field, the report lays out what is being done currently to promote international student growth and current and future components for success to further expand student mobility. 

Growing markets 

With a rising youth population seeking higher education opportunities beyond their borders, coupled with an unprecedented number of students completing secondary education, the demand for international education is expected to soar. 


With this surge, emerging markets are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the global landscape of academic mobility. Countries such as Bangladesh, Ghana and Vietnam are projected to experience significant growth in tertiary-age populations, presenting advantageous opportunities for international student recruitment. 

Key trends in academic mobility  

International student numbers in the United States are growing 

The United States has historically been a leading destination for international students, boasting a decentralised tertiary education system that offers opportunities at state, city and local levels. This accessibility, combined with over 368,000 jobs associated with supporting international students, highlights America’s commitment in maintaining its status as a preferred study-abroad destination. 


Key trends discussed in the report include the steady growth of international student numbers in the US. Forecasts suggest an 8% increase in international student numbers for the 2023-2024 academic year. International students hail from diverse regions, with top places of origin including China, India, Bangladesh and Brazil. 


According to the Open Doors® Report on International Educational Exchange, student flows to the US. have expanded rapidly, growing from just 144,708 students in 1970-1971 to 1,057,188 students in 2022-2023. Notably, recent years have seen increases of 4% in 2020-2021 and 12% in 2022-2023. Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, this marks the highest recorded rebounds. 

International students come from every world region 

The international student population in the United States is diverse, with learners hailing from over 210 locations across the globe. China and India continue to be the top two countries of origin, with 52% of all students coming from these nations. 


The 2022-2023 academic year saw rebounds in international student totals from various regions following the COVID-19 pandemic, with eight countries among the top 25 experiencing all-time highs. These regions include Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, India, Italy, Nepal, Pakistan and Spain. 


US colleges and universities want to host more international students

Institutions across the US are keen to host more international students, with 92% expressing a desire to increase enrolment. To accommodate this growth, efforts are underway to expand support services, student housing, and academic programs. 

The Fall 2023 Snapshot on International Student Enrollment revealed that 85% of institutions had the same or higher financial support for their international student recruitment efforts from the previous year. Additionally, 89% of institutions noted that 2023-2024 applications were up from the previous year, indicating a positive trend in international student interest. 


International students are important for the US. economy and jobs 

The economic impact of international students is substantial, contributing over $40 billion to the US. economy in the 2022-2023 academic year, underscoring the significance of global talent in driving economic growth. 


According to NAFSA, contributions by international students supported over 368,000 jobs in the United States, marking an almost 10% increase compared to the prior year. Additionally, every three international students created or supported one US. job, with economic benefits exceeding $1 billion in nine states across the nation. 

Ingredients for success 

Looking ahead to 2030, the report presents three growth scenarios for international enrolment, ranging from robust to slowed growth trajectories. With proactive measures and strategic initiatives, the United States is well-positioned to sustain its leadership in international education as a premier education destination. 

To ensure success in attracting and retaining international students, the report emphasises the importance of prioritising internationalisation, incorporating diversity strategies, expanding support services and advocating for policies that facilitate student visa issuances. 

With concerted efforts from the government, higher education institutions and international organisations, the report serves as a roadmap for stakeholders to navigate the opportunities and challenges of an increasingly interconnected international education landscape. 


To know more about the opportunities available for international students and updates about education in the USA, check out our blog or reach out to our North American team at [email protected].     


To view the full report, check out the Outlook 2030 Brief, The US. and International Education report from IIE. 

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