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April 30, 2018Washington, DC, United StatesStudent and Exchange Visitor Program

SEVP report highlights changes in international student population

Slight decrease from May 2017; Stark declines from Saudi Arabia, South Korea

WASHINGTON — Slightly more than 1.2 million international students with F (academic) or M (vocational) status study in the United States according to the latest "SEVIS by the Numbers," a report on international student trends prepared by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The report, released Monday by SEVP, highlights March 2018 data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a Web-based system that includes information about international students, exchange visitors and their dependents while they are in the United States.

Based on data extracted from SEVIS March 5, international student enrollment at U.S. schools decreased .5 percent compared to March 2017.

Roughly 85 percent of all F and M students enrolled in higher education degree programs, marking a .8 percent increase from March 2017. The largest growth and decline came from students seeking doctorate degrees and associates degrees, respectively. Doctorate degree programs saw a 4 percent increase in enrollment, while associates degree programs saw a 5 percent decrease. There were 785,435 F-1 students in the U.S. seeking bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and 58 percent of those students pursued degrees in business, engineering and computer science.

The largest number of international students hailed from Asia, but when comparing March 2018 to March 2017 data, there were less students from the continent studying in the U.S. While China and India accounted for nearly half of the international student population, stark declines in students from Saudi Arabia and South Korea of 17 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, resulted in an overall decline in Asian students.

South America saw the largest growth in international students coming to the U.S. to study. The number of Brazilian and Argentinean students increased by 13.1 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.

As of March 5, there were 8,744 SEVP-certified schools in the U.S., 28 less than March 2017. Most certified schools enrolled fewer than 50 international students; only 38 certified schools hosted more than 5,000 international students. The following schools had the highest number of enrolled F-1 students: New York University (16,960 F-1 students), University of Southern California (14,644 F-1 students), Northeastern University (14,248 F-1 students), Columbia University in the City of New York (12,785 F-1 students), and the University of Illinois (11,474 F-1 students). No U.S. school certified to enroll M-1 students enrolled more than 1,000 students.

California continued to have the highest international student population, followed by New York and Texas. Together, these three states hosted 35 percent of the entire international student population.

This report also included a breakdown of international student enrollment by U.S. region. In the Northeast, 83 percent of international students pursued a post-secondary degree. Maine was the only state in the Northeast to experience a dip in international student enrollment numbers. Massachusetts was home to the fasting growing and second largest international student population in the region, hosting 73,859 students. It also saw nearly a 10 percent increase in the number of students pursuing master’s degrees from March 2017.

In the South, Kentucky saw the largest growth in the reporting year, with its international student population growing by 70 percent, an increase of 6,299 international students. Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas all experienced declining international student numbers, with Virginia’s international student population decreasing by 3,058 students or roughly 11 percent.

The Midwest saw about a 1.5 percent decline in the number of international students, with eight of the 12 states in the region seeing a dip in the reporting period. Missouri, Ohio and Indiana saw the greatest reductions in their international student populations.

In March 2018, there were 11,631 less international students enrolled at schools in the West. Even though California retained the largest international student population, it also saw the steepest decline in international students with 9,293 less students studying in the state than March 2017.

Individuals can explore and drill down international student data from current and previous "SEVIS by the Numbers" reports by visiting SEVP’s interactive mapping tool. This information is viewable at the continent, region and country level and includes information on gender and education levels, as well as international student populations by state, broken down by geographical areas across the globe.

SEVP monitors more than one million international students pursuing academic or vocational studies (F and M visa holders) in the United States and their dependents. It also certifies schools and programs that enroll these students. The U.S. Department of State monitors exchange visitors (J visa holders) and their dependents, and oversees exchange visitor programs.

Both use SEVIS to protect national security by ensuring that students, visitors and schools comply with U.S. laws. SEVP also collects and shares SEVIS information with government partners, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, so only legitimate international students and exchange visitors enter the United States.

HSI reviews SEVIS records for potential violations and refers cases with possible national security or public safety concerns to its field offices for further investigation. Additionally, SEVP’s Analysis and Operations Center analyzes student and school records for administrative compliance with federal regulations related to studying in the United States.

Learn more about SEVP at

Updated: 10/08/2020