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Eastern Europe/Former U.S.S.R.: More Students Coming To Study In U.S.

  • Julie Moffett

Washington, 4 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A new report made public this week shows that students from Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union are coming to the United States to study in numbers larger than ever.

Highlights of the report, called "Open Doors 1995-96" and issued by the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE), were released to the press. The entire study is expected to be made public later this month.

The report shows a dramatic increase in the number of students from Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union who come to the United States to study, even as the total number of foreign students enrolled at U.S. institutions of higher learning increased by only .03 percent.

The report notes that students coming from Russia, Poland, the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania are largely the reason for the increase in the number of European students studying at American educational institutions. However, this growth is tempered by a leveling off of the number of students coming from Western European countries.

As far as Western Europe is concerned, the report shows that Germany sends the most students to the United States (9,017), followed by Great Britain (7,799), France (5,710) and Spain (4,809). These figures mark very slow growth -- up less than one percent from 1994-1995.

On the other hand, the report says the number of students from Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union has risen dramatically, from 4,780 in 1991-92 to 18,032 in 1995-1996.

The report indicates that in the academic year of 1995-96, Russia sent the most students (5,589) to the United States; followed by Poland (1,743); the former Yugoslavia (1,594); Bulgaria (1,588); Romania (1,456); and the unspecified category of "Eastern Europe -- Other" (6,062).

Overall, Asia sends the most students to the United States, comprising 57 percent of all foreigners attending U.S. academic institutions. Japan sends the most students, followed by China and South Korea.

According to the report, foreign students at American universities make up about three percent of the total student population.

Foreign study in the United States is a lucrative business. Figures cited in the report indicate that last year, foreign students spent $7 billion in the United States -- $3 million of it in school fees. Additionally, the report shows that in 1995-96 alone, foreign students created an estimated 100,000 full and part-time jobs in state and local economies through the money they spent while studying in the United States.

According to the study, these figures make American universities the nation's fifth largest "exporter" of services and one in which the revenue stays in the United States.

The report notes the most popular choice of study in the United States for foreign students in 1995-96 was business management, attracting more than 91,000 foreign students. Engineering, general studies, communications, law and social sciences followed in popularity. The lowest amount of interest were shown in the studies of education and agriculture.

The report lists the top five U.S. universities hosting foreign students in 1995-96 as: Boston University, New York University, University of Southern California, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ohio State University Main Campus.

Eastern European states and countries of the former Soviet Union also play host to a large number of American students, notes the report.

According to the study, Russia hosted the most American students (1,290) in 1994-95 -- the most recent year from which these statistics are available -- but the numbers indicate a 14 percent drop in interest from the previous academic year.

On the other hand, Belarus saw a 2,200 percent jump in the number of American students interested in studying in that country. The former Yugoslavia saw a 300 percent jump; Ukraine a 142 percent increase, and Estonia a 54 percent increase.

Other countries showing growth in attracting U.S. students were the Czech Republic (31 percent); Hungary (10 percent); Poland (20 percent); Bulgaria (35 percent); and Latvia (27 percent).

However, the study notes that some countries in the region beside Russia suffered a decrease in interest for the 1995-96 academic year. Slovakia had a decrease of 39 percent of American students attending their higher education institutions; Romania fell by 10 percent and Lithuania decreased by 93 percent.

As a whole, the report says the number of U.S. students studying abroad rose 11 percent, marking a ten-year period of solid growth in interest for studying abroad.

IIE is a non-profit international exchange and training organization. The Open Doors report is published annually with support from the United States Information Agency.