General Background

The United States is an ideal destination for international students to come and study. There are four main reasons that encourage international students to come to U.S, they are: educational quality, job opportunities, English language and democracy. As the result, recently, more and more international students are choosing the United States as a destination for further education. The graph below shows the trend of international studying in the U.S from the very early year of 1951 to 2012 and the number of international students study in the U.S. has been increasing significantly over years. Latest data of school year 2011/12 shows there are 764.495 international students studying in the U.S.

Table 1. International Student Trends

Source: IIE – Institute of International Education

The growing numbers of international students in the US has made them an important economic force.   The Association of International Educators estimates that international students and their dependents contributed approximately $21.81 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2011-2012 academic year. Allan E. Goodman, president of the institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes international study said in a New York Times article back in 2007 that “These are foreign people buying an American product, and the Department of Commerce says international education is our fifth-largest service export, bigger than medical services”. “It’s a huge factor in a lot of cities, including New York, where international students contribute about $1.5 billion, more than the Yankees, the Mets, the Rangers, the Knicks and the Giants combined.” [Lewin, T.2007]

Recognizing the economic benefits that international students bring to the host country, many nations, especially English speaking countries have set attracting international students as national target. The graph below shows the number and percentage of international students in total enrollment from 2002 to 2009 by four hosting countries: US, UK, Australia and Canada.

Source: WES – World Education Service

The chart above shows that America had the largest number of international students, however it own the least growth rate over the years. Meanwhile Australia and UK showed significant progress in capturing the share of international students recently. Therefore, if America do not have further marketing strategy to promote its education service to the world, there are competitors that competing and willing to receive more economic advantage over the US.

Research question

My research question is how to attract larger number of international students to the U.S in order to benefit the economy. What should be done so that the US can keep its leader role in the world in attracting international students, instead of losing it to other countries that are also putting effort in this competition?

The importance of the research

As foreign students are adding benefits to the economy, it is important to carry out research in order to encourage the development of exporting education service. Especially in the current period when the U.S is facing economic recession and struggling with a high rate of unemployment. Enhancing education service will help the U.S create more jobs or even the jobs that have shifted overseas. For example, China is the country where most American manufacturers moved to, taking millions of American jobs. Boosting the international students studying in the US would even the economic benefits that have been leaking offshore.

In general, the success of this research will create an impact for U.S economy. In a smaller scale, it will help organizations such as school, university, college to increase revenue during the time of economic downturn like right now.

The review of the related literature

Attracting international students requires the combination efforts from two levels: national and institutional. At national level, the government is responsible for policy, legal matters relate to international students’ entering and settle down in the host countries. In addition, national government plays a crucial role in promoting the country’s images as a whole. At institutional level, it is important for the school, college, universities to design study courses suitable for international students, support international students life and marketing the reputation of the institution. Literature review will be divided into two segments: (a) international students attracting strategy at national level and (b) international students attracting strategy at institutional level.

International students attracting strategy at national level

Attracting international students is an important subject that concern policy makers at national level and there have been various research conducted by NGOs and government body. In 2007 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted forum “Global Competitiveness: Implications for the Nation’s Higher Education System” with participants are representatives from government agencies, institutes and universities. The forum proposed some changes relate to policy in order to attract international students. They are: developing a national plan for recruiting and attaining international students, consider changes to the U.S immigration system, exploring new sources of international students such as developing countries, providing more scholarship to potential students.[GAO.2007]. Responding to these proposals, recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Custom Enforcement have made changes in simplification of the visa application process as well as related policy to increase job opportunities for international students.

Institution of International Education (IIE), a non-profit organization, one of the world’s largest international education and training organizations, every year publish different kinds of reports and surveys on international students. The report “Perceptions of European Higher Education, Country report: USA” discussed international students in the context of the U.S. higher education system and details the research findings of a survey conducted among 420 international students from different parts of the world who are studying in 24 institutions in the United States. The survey focus on acquiring a deeper understanding of students’ motivations and criteria for choosing an international education and to identify the factors that come into play when a student is considering a study period in the United States. Main findings of these surveys are:

  • 78% say study abroad is to support future career.
  • More students from Asia, Africa, Middle East high valuate degree from US, while less European (71%) agree so.
  • In selecting a host campus, 77% concern about program or courses, 33% concern about student body or the location .
  • 14% of Europeans, 45% for Asian students considered security in their decision to study in the U.S
  • 32% of Europeans and above 65% Asian and African agreed U.S. has a good reputation around the world.
  • 53%of the survey respondents encountered problems with visa procedures (this reflect visa policy from 2001 to 2004, not the current policy)

Many other countries around the world are also looking for strategies to attract and retain international students. The New York Times had an article on “European Countries Compete to Attract, and Retain, Foreign Students” in which discussed the result of a study released in 2012 by the Migration Policy Group, a nonprofit organization, compared the strategies and success rates of five European countries — Germany, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — in attracting and retaining non-European students. The Netherlands was found to do well in retaining students in comparison with the other countries because of its respected postsecondary institutions, relative good value of degrees, available bureaucratic and widely spoken English. Germany was found to have the highest percentage of students willing to stay for the long term, with 12.5 percent predicting that they would stay five or more years after finishing their study as Germany has strong job market especially in the engineering sector and Germany gives recently graduated foreigners more time to find employment — 18 months rather than 12 months. [Schuetze, C. 2012]

International students attracting strategy at institutional level

Despite the number and diversity of accredited institutions in the US, close to 60 percent of international students choose to attend the 170 institutions [Aw, F., 2012]. This type of concentration fails to leverage the competitive advantage of the US higher education system. Therefore, it is also the incentive for other institutions to accelerate different strategies to attract more international students.

Institutions’ strategies to attract international students are addressed in the annual International Student Enrollment Survey by Institute of International Education (IIE), conducting among institutions of eight higher education associations. In Fall 2011, this survey received responses from 746 U.S. higher education institutions from all institutional types. Special steps that institutions have taken to maintain the growth of international student enrollments are recorded as follow respectively: new staff or additional staff time; new international programs and collaborations; new funding for marketing/ promotion; new funding for international recruitment trips.

In addition, institution individually also carry out its own annual survey among the current students to understand better international students needs, trends therefore to develop suitable strategies. There are also many companies specialize in conducting, analyzing international students surveys in order to provide market information for institutions.

The research methodology

My research methodology is collecting surveys from students including international students currently studying in the United States, international students in other countries around the world and students at their home countries that intending to study abroad. I chose to survey U.S international students to point out the U.S advantages that have been recognized, the strength of U.S. I chose to survey international students outside U.S to understand other countries’ strength. I chose to survey students at their preparation steps to understand their needs and factors that are directing their decision.

In this methodology, the international students studying in the U.S will be the bridge to connect with students around the world. Beside the one survey attain from each international student in the U.S, that students is asked to carry out the survey on his/her friend/ family members, anyone they know that is studying abroad or intending to study abroad. It is possible that each U.S international student can bring back 5-10 surveys since they share the same background with their friends and relatives that study abroad. Therefore, the expecting number of my survey is around 700 which involve about 100 U.S international students (number of international students at LIU Post is around 700 [].

The survey will focus on the process of decision-making chronologically, recall students memory of how did they came to the final decision, what factors had affected them, including internal and external factors. The survey is divided into three parts: part 1 is reason for deciding to study abroad, part 2 is country and institution searching process and part 3 is final decision. It is also important to include in the survey student’s opinions, perceive about U.S institutions and comparison between the U.S and other countries.


Recently, many countries around the world, especially the top developed countries have national policy to attract international students; however, the US has no comprehensive national policy on international student recruitment or internationalization of higher education.( Becker, R. Kolster, R.2012). Even though, the Government had done significant changes in immigration, visa and student recruitment policy that is more convenient for international students; nevertheless, in the competitive education market with so many strong rivals like right now, it is important for the U.S to carry out stronger strategies.

From my own experience as an international student who have gone through the process of deciding where to study which country and which institution; I also recognized that there are lack of advertising campaign, lack of available information from American institutions which make America become less attractive compare to other countries. Meanwhile, for other countries, their education system might not as good as America but through many kinds of media and advertising campaign, it could drive students’ perception differently.

America already own most of the advantages in attracting international students compare to any country in the world, therefore, with better marketing strategies, America will easily gain success in this field.


Aw, F., (2012) The International Student Question: 45 Years Later. Journal of College Admission.

Becker, R., Kolster,R. (2012) International student recruitment: policies and developments in selected countries. Nuffic – Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education

Choudaha.R, Chang.L (2012) Trends in international student mobility. WES – World Education Service

GAO – United States Government Accountability Office (2007) Global Competitiveness: Implications for the Nation’s Higher Education System.

IIE, Fall 2011 International Student Enrollment Survey. – Institute of International Education. Retrieved from

IIE. (2012). Open doors report. Institute of International Education

Lewin.T (2007, Nov 12). Study: Foreign Students added to economy. NYtimes. Retrieved from

Obst.D, Forste.J. Perceptions of European Higher Education. Country Report: USA Institute of International Education

Schuetze, C.( 2012, Aug 11). European Countries Compete to Attract, and Retain, Foreign students, NY times. Retrieved from


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