New York metro area top draw for foreign students, report says

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The New York area is the most popular destination for international students, with Columbia University, New York University, Rutgers, Stony Brook University and the City University of New York drawing the largest numbers of students who come to the region, according to an analysis released Friday.

The report, released by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., said the metro area, including Long Island and northern New Jersey, attracted 101,586 student visa holders from 2008 through 2012, by far the largest number of 118 metropolitan areas studied.

It also noted a dramatic increase in student visas over the period studied, from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012.

"It's a huge metro area with a lot of companies" attracting the students, who tend to graduate and work in the cities where they study, said Neil Ruiz, the Brookings scholar who authored "The Geography of Foreign Students in U.S. Higher Education: Origins and Destinations." He spent a year analyzing data culled from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Stony Brook popular

Over the period studied, Columbia had 13,434 foreign students, New York University 11,609 and CUNY 10,984. Rutgers and Stony Brook were named among the top five in the region, but student figures were not printed in the report. Stony Brook had 3,976 students from other countries studying there in fall 2013, according to information posted on the school's website.

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Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., were the next-most popular areas, drawing 68,271, 53,486, 37,610 and 35,459 students, respectively.

More students came to the U.S. from Seoul, South Korea, than any other city -- 56,503 from 2008 through 2012, with 6,966 of those heading to the New York area. But China, the world's most populous nation, led the pack as a country of origin, with 23,663 students coming to the New York area during those years.

More than half of the 101,586 foreign students who studied in the New York area in that period -- 55,238 -- came from four Asian countries: China, South Korea, India and Taiwan.

Ruiz said students are coming in high numbers from cities with emerging economies, and that they tend to major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields as well as business and marketing.

He added that Seoul, home to such formidable firms as Samsung and Kia, has become a global powerhouse with a need for more talent.

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"The country has emerged," Ruiz said of South Korea. "They have become a global player in the business world."

The Brookings report said that as many as two-thirds of foreign students studied STEM and business fields while fewer than half of U.S. students, 48 percent, are drawn to those fields.

45 percent hired in area

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Ruiz's research also tracked students who graduate, finding that as many as 45 percent of the students who study in the U.S. take positions at companies in the area or city where they earned a degree.

Foreign students have a major impact on local economies, the research showed. For example, the students attending New York-area schools paid more than $2.6 billion in tuition and more than $1.6 billion in living expenses during the five-year period.

Ruiz, noting that schools in this country tend to rank among the best in the world, said as many as 21 percent of all students studying abroad are studying in the United States.

"That's the attraction of an American degree," he said. "That's why so many students come here."

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