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STEM’s international college appeal

Top schools for STEM internationals include the University of Southern California, Purdue University (Ind.), the University of Illinois, New York University and Columbia University
University Business, October 2014
India and China are sending the most students to U.S. colleges to study STEM subjects.
India and China are sending the most students to U.S. colleges to study STEM subjects.

The American higher education system still holds a global appeal, attracting nearly 1 million international students as of July, and more than one-third of these students are traveling stateside to study STEM fields. That’s according to the latest quarterly report from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, “SEVIS by the Numbers.”

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, found that 75 percent of the 966,333 international students were from Asia, with the highest number—28 percent—hailing from China. And of the 344,299 of these students studying STEM, 85 percent are from Asia. Some 43 percent of all STEM internationals are studying engineering, with 70 percent of this group coming from China or India.

There is, however, gender discrepancy among international STEM students, says Rachel Canty, SEVP’s deputy director. “While the results aren’t surprising, it is disappointing,” she says, as 69 percent of STEM students are male, while only 31 percent are female.

The top schools for STEM internationals include the University of Southern California, Purdue University (Ind.), the University of Illinois, New York University and Columbia University. The research did not find STEM international students clustered in any particular states.

For some, the U.S. offers more than just a degree: A small but steady number of STEM internationals have remained in the U.S. post-graduation for employment. Canty says that, since 2003, 1,379 students with a STEM major were approved for a change of status from an F-1 (student) to an H-1B (temporary employment) visa.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an online system that collects data on international students and their dependents while they are in the U.S.

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