The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the second top destination for international students attending public universities in the United States, according to the annual Open Doors report, released Nov. 16 by the Institute of International Education. The report ranks Illinois as second in the nation for international students in 2014-15 (fifth when accounting for private schools) and ninth for students participating in study abroad programs in 2013-14. According to the report, there are more international students studying in the U.S. today than at any time in history.
“The University of Illinois strives to nurture and develop truly global citizens, both on our campus and abroad, and our consistent growth in the number of international students reflects that,” said Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela, the vice provost for international affairs and global strategies at the U. of I. “We accomplish this by offering an academically rigorous and diverse environment that welcomes people from all over the world, while also providing a rich array of opportunities for our students and faculty to study, research or teach abroad. By doing both simultaneously, we strike a unique balance that makes us a model among our peers and allows us to offer one of the most diverse learning environments in the world.”
According to the report, Illinois ranked second among all public colleges and universities in the country, preceded by Arizona State University – which counts seven more students than Illinois and witnessed a 30 percent spike in its international student body this year. In overall rankings, Illinois comes in fifth behind New York University, the University of Southern California, Columbia University and Arizona State University, respectively. Eight of the top 20 institutions on the Open Doors list are Big Ten universities. According to preliminary 2015-16 enrollment figures, Illinois’ numbers are expected to rise in the next report.
“In our increasingly interconnected world, we have a responsibility to expand the opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to learn, teach and work in a setting where global perspectives are not only celebrated, but truly integrated into the campus culture,” said Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson. “At Illinois, we are proud to bring the top students from all over the world and to be a leader in providing programs that let students study abroad. These international experiences – on our campus or a world away – make our graduates among the most prepared to live, work and lead in a global society.”
Overall, the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 10 percent to 974,926 during the 2014-15 academic year. This represents a record number of international students in the U.S., driven largely by a 10 percent increase in the number of Chinese students and a 29.4 percent increase in Indian students. Illinois has seen a more than 400 percent increase in Chinese students since 2005.
In addition to the quantitative and qualitative benefits of enhanced learning outcomes for both domestic and international students, international students bring economic benefits to the state of Illinois – including total economic contributions of more than $1 billion and the creation of 17,231 jobs in 2014, according to NAFSA. The contribution to the Urbana-Champaign economy totaled $336 million last year. Illinois is among only 24 states to have passed legislation deliberately aimed at enhancing international education.
In addition to a jump in international student numbers on U.S. campuses, the number of students going abroad also has increased by 5.2 percent. The university jumped to ninth in the country in the number of students receiving credit for their study abroad experience, up from 17th in the previous year’s report.
“The real story here is not so much the ranking but the continued growth in study abroad at Illinois,” said Bo White, the director of Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange. “Our campus embraces the idea that the world itself is a global classroom; it’s truly exciting to witness this ongoing rise in student and faculty interest in pursuing study abroad opportunities as central to the educational experience.”
The Institute of International Education has conducted an annual census of international students in the U.S. since its founding in 1919. Open Doors has been published by the institute since 1949 and has received support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State since the 1970s.