The number of students from other countries enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities rose 10 percent from the 2013-14 to the 2014-15 academic years, the highest rate of growth in 35 years, according to an Institute of International Education report released Monday.
With 974,926 international students at public and private American institutions, the United States remained the top destination globally by far, data gathered by the Manhattan-based institute showed. Great Britain was the No. 2 host country, with about half the number that came to the United States.
The metropolitan area's 100-plus colleges and universities had the highest concentration of foreign students. California was the state with the largest number of international students, with 135,130 in 2014-15 -- an 11.1 percent increase over the previous year, when it also led the nation.
"We've been seeing an increasing interest on the part of undergraduate students, driven primarily by Chinese students coming to the United States in large numbers," said Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president for research and evaluation at the institute. She oversees the Open Doors project, an annual report on student mobility into and out of the United States that is compiled in partnership with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
New York State saw an economic impact of some $3.6 billion from the international students' enrollment, according to the report, which takes into account such costs as tuition, room and board, retail, transportation, health care, entertainment and local travel.
Four Long Island schools' international enrollment put them among the top 25 public and private colleges and universities in the state: Stony Brook University was fifth on the list with 5,132 international students; New York Institute of Technology came in 11th with 2,364 students; Hofstra University was 19th with 1,280 students; and Nassau Community College was 21st with 1,086 students.
The numbers in the report include undergraduate and graduate students, as well as those on internships or doing optional practical training.
China top country
China remains the top country of origin, with 304,040 students in 2014-15 -- 11 percent more than the previous academic year.
But a chunk of the overall increase was driven by students from India, which Bhandari called "the real growth story." After years at roughly the same level, the number of students from India increased by 29 percent, to a record 132,888 in 2014-15.
There is high demand for a college degree in India, particularly in science and engineering, and there aren't enough seats at the institutions there, Bhandari said.
"If they can't receive it in their own country, they are going to find it elsewhere," she added.
Ronald Maggiore, vice president for enrollment at NYIT, said the Old Westbury-based school has taken note of that rise.
"We've seen certainly here in the last two years the push by India," he said. This semester, NYIT enrolled 1,304 students from India. The university's total undergraduate and graduate student population is 9,791 at its campuses in Old Westbury and Manhattan, as well as Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; Vancouver, Canada; and Nanjing, China.
"Short of some global calamity, I assume the flow of students from these two countries [China and India] will continue. The population growth in those two countries is enormous and they don't have the capacity to educate their students," Maggiore said. "There's a lot of interest in Western education over there and I don't anticipate that's going to change."
Stony Brook University has seen more interest from prospective undergrads in India over the past two years, and admissions representatives have attended recruitment sessions there, spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said. In the spring, an on-campus information session drew about 25 guidance counselors from India.
"There has been a steady increase in Chinese students over the past five years -- it is the country of most growth in student population at Stony Brook," Sheprow said. After China, "India, South Korea, Brazil, Iran and France have seen the most growth."
Asked if there is talk of capping enrollment of foreign students, she noted Stony Brook's commitment to maintaining access for state residents. A cap on students from other states or countries has not been considered "beyond protecting the commitment to New Yorkers," Sheprow said.
She pointed out that the report's numbers and ranking of universities do not reflect international students' percentage of an institution's student body.
The Open Doors 2014-15 report also shows the number of students on U.S. campuses who are from Brazil grew 78 percent, to 23,675. Those from Vietnam rose 13 percent to 18,722; from Mexico, 15 percent to 17,052; from Iran, 11 percent to 11,338; and from Nigeria, 20 percent to 9,494.
The statistics reflect the effort by many colleges, locally and nationally, to ensure more countries are represented on their campuses.
"We definitely want to strengthen our international student body from a broad list of countries," said Lauren Mounty, vice president for enrollment, management and student success at Adelphi University in Garden City. In 2014-15, Adelphi had 576 international students, according to the Open Doors report.
As part of the university's strategy to build enrollment, Adelphi has contracted with Shorelight Education Inc., an international recruiting agency based in Boston.
Part of Shorelight's job will be to represent and build the Adelphi University brand to students in other countries.
Mounty said she believes the number of international students at Adelphi would be capped around 10 percent of its student body of about 7,800 undergraduate and graduate students.
Other institutions on Long Island, particularly tuition-dependent private schools, are boosting overseas recruiting, too. The colleges are enlisting the help of consultants and agencies designed to match students abroad with U.S. institutions. The third-party agencies are helpful because the schools don't have the staffing needed to recruit all over the globe, local college admissions officials have said.