Chinese and Indian students in U.S. college 2023

US college enrollment is experiencing a resurgence after a prolonged decline, albeit with a continued drop in first-year student numbers following the Covid-19 pandemic. However, a crucial indicator showcases the robustness of American higher education: it remains the favored destination for an expanding global youth population striving for better socioeconomic prospects.

Data from the US State Department indicates a substantial rebound in college enrollments post the Covid-induced slump. Over the first nine months of 2023, more than 372,000 F-1 student visas were issued, marking an 11% growth compared to 335,000 visas for the same period in 2022. Sasha Ramani, Chief Strategist at MPOWER Financing, a leading international student loan lender, forecasts that over 460,000 visas will be issued by the end of 2023.

Ramani highlights the current landscape in American higher education as one characterized by vacant classroom seats. He notes a decline in American students within the university-going age range, providing an opportunity to fill these vacancies with international students, especially in high-growth sectors like healthcare, high-tech, and manufacturing, critical for the American labor force.


U.S. News 2023 Rank School Indian Students – 2023 – All Programs Indian Students – 2022 Chinese Students – 2023 – All Programs Chinese Students – 2022
20T Washington (Foster) 66% 58.3% 13% 15%
35T Arizona State (Carey) 66% 50% 11% 18%
27T Texas-Dallas (Jindal) 62% 42% 3% 3%
24T Rice (Jones) 61% 50% 9% 13%
31T Minnesota (Carlson) 61% 11% NA NA
20T Texas-Austin (McCombs) 60% 62% 12% 12%
24T Georgetown (McDonough) 46% 44% 14% 14%
18 Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 44.5% 45% 25.1% 13%

The evolving data indicates a swift transformation in US colleges and universities, notably in student demographics shifting away from traditional sources such as China towards burgeoning markets like West Africa. Despite a substantial surge in Chinese student enrollment through the initial seven months of 2023, it remains notably below its peak in 2019, representing a drastic change.

Remarkably, Indian students have emerged as the dominant international demographic, surpassing all other nations in both 2022 and 2023. Ramani observes a 15% increase in the Indian student population in the US during the first half of this year.

Universities are steering towards diversified student populations, deeming it risky to depend heavily on any single country due to potential unforeseen adversities. Moreover, the virtual recruitment learned during Covid enables outreach to students in metropolitan cities as well as lesser-known towns across various regions, stimulating substantial growth.

The decrease in Chinese enrollment extends beyond the US to countries like Canada and the UK. A general uptick in interest from India and West Africa indicates a potential crowding-out effect on Chinese students due to limited academic space.

Notably, Canada now hosts an equal number of international students compared to the US, despite the considerable size difference, signaling ample opportunities for the US to attract talented students globally.

Analyzing data from U.S. News & World Report, a notable shift towards Indian students across top US B-schools is evident, with average Indian student populations rising to 33.7% in 2023. In contrast, Chinese student percentages declined to 13.9%.

The trend also reflects in specific B-schools reporting over 20% Indian students, a noticeable increase from the previous year. This includes schools like the University of Washington Foster School of Business and Arizona State Carey School of Business, boasting 66% Indian student populations. However, schools like Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School lead with 93% Chinese students.

In MBA programs, Cornell Johnson records the highest international population at 48.9%, while Florida Warrington College of Business reports the lowest at 19.1%.


U.S. News 2023 Rank School Chinese Students – 2023 Chinese Students – 2022 Indian Students – 2022 Indian Students – 2023
37T Washington-St. Louis (Olin) 93% 94% 2% 2%
40T Wisconsin 41% 36% NA NA
8T Yale SOM 35% 31% 12% 15%
15 Cornell (Johnson) 33.2% 42.6% 15.4% 13.1%
18 Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 25.1% 13% 44.5% 45%
10 NYU (Stern) 24.2% 28.2% 28.2% 28.4%
8T Michigan (Ross) 23% 11% 37% 41%
11T Duke (Fuqua) 23% 24.4% 27.9% 31.3%

The surge in Nigerian and Ghanaian students is noteworthy across multiple B-schools, signifying substantial growth. However, students from West Africa encounter higher visa rejection rates compared to peers, necessitating policy changes for a more inclusive approach.

The Biden administration’s welcoming stance has facilitated a surge in F-1 visas, exemplified by initiatives such as opening a new consulate in Bangalore. Yet, geopolitical tensions and demographic shifts in China have redirected student aspirations towards countries like India and West Africa.

Ramani predicts a shift in recruitment strategies, anticipating universities to intensify efforts in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, aiming for a more diverse international student body.

Inevitably, changes in recruitment strategies will witness universities aiming for diversity, necessitating an expanded international outreach in their admissions.

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