A rising tide may lift all boats but overreliance on just a few sources may force a few colleges and universities to run aground. At least that’s what some experts are saying in response to the data provided by the Institute of International Education in its last Open Doors report. As we noted in our last discussion of the report, international student enrollment in the US reached all time highs in the 2012-2013 academic year. This growth is not limited to only a few states or schools: the ten most popular schools and twenty most popular institutions all saw increases across the board. But consider this.

A Closer Look
Students from China, India, and South Korea – the top three countries of origin– now account for nearly half (49%) of all international student enrollment in the United States and, of these three, only China’s enrollment figures actually rose. Though their 21.4% year-over-year increase is impressive, it also contributes to the increasing over-reliance of US schools on a single source of students. Fully 28% of all international students are from China, a figure greater than the other four top five finishers combined. This has some US schools worried, and looking to diversify their international student population.

Unique Problems
Given the fact that now 3 countries dominate international education in the US, some are worried as what this could mean to colleges and universities, should trends in these three countries turn up side down. Schools now rely on international student tuition to bolster otherwise declining revenues, this mean that many schools are susceptible to considerable financial risk in the event of a reversal of this trend. More immediately, too, because both Chinese and Saudi Arabian* students typically have weaker English-language skills than the average international student, many schools are being pressed to provide additional language courses and other support services for the first time. Not only are such programs costly but they also indicate that one of overarching goal of international education – exchange – may be becoming hard to accomplish. After all, with more than a quarter of all international students now coming from one country – even one as large as China – international students may not be providing the same kind of cultural diversity to their campuses as they once did.

* 2012-2013’s other big mover and shaker, up 30.5% and two places to finish at number four.