F-1 and J-1 secondary students by region of origin, Fall 2016. Credit: IIE's Globally Mobile Youth: Trends in International Secondary Students in the United States, 2013-2016 study
Number of international US secondary students continues to grow
A new study by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in the USA has confirmed that the number of international students seeking a US high school diploma continues to grow, up from 73,019 in 2013 to 81,981 in 2016.

The study, entitled Globally Mobile Youth: Trends in International Secondary Students in the United States, 2013-2016, was conducted by IIE to brief educators and policymakers on the rising number of international secondary students remaining in the country for postsecondary education.


Of all international students enrolled at a US high school in 2016, 72 per cent were full diploma-seeking students on the F-1 visa, up 22 per cent on 2013 figures, with the remainder holding a J-1 exchange programme visa, a decline of seven per cent over the same period.


China continued to drive growth with 34,197 students enrolled on an F-1 or J-1 visa in 2016, representing 42 per cent of all international students in secondary education in the USA. The number of Chinese students increased by 48 per cent over the three year period (2013-2016), outpacing the 12 per cent growth seen overall from diploma-seeking and exchange students combined, said the study.

South Korea (5,642) and Germany (5,600) were the next two largest source countries (enrolled on an F-1 or J-1 visa in 2016) for US schools.

In StudyTravel Magazine's recent US Schools Survey, China was by far the largest sending market for the US secondary sector, representing 50.7 per cent of all enrolled students at 55 surveyed schools, followed by Korea (6) and Mexico (6).

The study authors noted that an increasing number of existing private and public high schools were embracing international student recruitment, with 2,800 US schools hosting overseas students, compared with 2,300 three years ago.

Private high schools were the most active sector for international student recruitment. Just over 94 per cent of F-1 diploma-seeking students were enrolled at a private school in 2016, largely consistent with 2013 figures. Religiously-affiliated private schools were the largest hosts (58 per cent).

International students make up just 0.5 per cent of the more than 15.5 million secondary school students in the US, but there is now international representation at secondary-level in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, said the study.

Top hosts were California (12,201), New York (6,145) and Texas (4,717), mirroring postsecondary trends.

A majority of F-1 diploma-seeking secondary students were studying in California, New York, Massachusetts and Florida, while Michigan, Texas, California and Oregon were the leading hosts for those on J-1 visas, said the report.

While the US remains the top host of international secondary school students, Australia (22,265), Canada (44,510) and the UK (27,633) have all seen increased numbers of secondary students over the last few years, said the study.

Australia, nurturing the smallest base of international students, had the fastest rate of growth, increasing by 34 per cent from 2013 to 2016, while Canada grew by nine per cent and the UK by seven per cent. 

"More international students are coming to the United States to pursue high school studies leading to a diploma, with the intent of preparing for US higher education," concluded Rajika Bhandari, Head of Research, Policy and Practice at IIE. "This has significant implications not only for high schools and communities that host them, but also for the colleges and universities to which they are applying."

StudyTravel Magazine published an investigative feature on the secondary sector in the October 2016 issue.


By Nicola Hancox