Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bottom Eleven U.S. States Receiving International Students in 2010-11

I've been reading much of the international, national, local and new media coverage pertaining to the release of the 2011 Open Doors data on Monday and it is all very exciting.  The majority of the coverage has highlighted the increased numbers (for both international students and U.S. students abroad) or the "Top" schools sending U.S. students abroad, the "Top" schools receiving international students, the "Top" academic disciplines of U.S. students study abroad, the "Top" sending countries of international students to the U.S. and so on...

Some IHEC Blog readers and many of my friends and colleagues in the field know that I sometimes like to take a different look at the Open Doors data (and sometimes a much more in depth look at the data) and post what I find.  Sometimes I hope my posts lead to further dialogue and debate in our field and sometimes my intent is simply to provide data that, most likely, is not presented in other places.  This post today probably falls under the later but I could be wrong.

Following are the bottom eleven U.S. states* receiving international students during the 2010-11 academic year:

#40  Nevada
#41 New Mexico
#42 New Hanpshire
#43 Mississippi
#44 West Virginia
#45 Idaho
#46 Montana
#47 South Dakota
#48 Maine
#49 Wyoming
#50 Vermont (article "Vermont's modest global draw" in the Burlington Free Press)
#51 Alaska

This list really doesn't say much but it would be interesting to go through the Open Doors data from the past several years and compare the lists to see ifwe can gain any insight into why these states comprise the bottom fifth of U.S. states receiving international students in 2010-11 and if they have historically fallen in the bottom fifth.  While a historical and comparative review might provide some insight I think more analysis of additional variables is necessary to fully understand why this is the case.  Know the total number of higer education institutions in each state would certainly be helpful but I think looking back to see if these states have issued state proclamations in support of international education, which may lead to resource allocation in an effort to market the state as a study abroad destination for international students.  Four states from this group of eleven issued a proclamation in support of International Education Week 2010. Another indication of state level support for international education and valuing international students is to see if these states have established (and hopefully active) consortium working to highlight the state as a study destination for international students.  To my knowledge, of these eleven states only West Virginia has established such a consortium called Study West Virginia at Nov. 17th:  The State of Mississippi also has an established consortium focused on bringing international students to the State.  Study Mississippi has a website AND they are on Twitter at @studyMS.  Another colleague on Twitter reports that she is working to establish Study New Hampshire and that Study Vermont USA has recently been established.

I posted this list of bottom receiving states last night to IHEC Blog's Facebook page and a colleague, Lori Sjokolade, left a very interesting comment/observation about one reason these states may be the bottom receiving schools.  Lori makes the point that:
 "one thing these states have in common is that they are all EPSCoR states.  No surprise that these states rank the lowest since science and engineering are amongst the top fields that international students choose to study in the United States and these states are amongst those that have been identified as needing help in boosting their science and engineering competitiveness."
I hadn't even though about this aspect but I think this is a very valid point. 

What are your thoughts about any of this?

*51 total includes all 50 U.S. States and Washington D.C.
Source for state spedific data and ranking available on the 2011 Open Doors site


  1. When I read the list, I was surprised to not see Arizona or Alabama. I figured with the immigration laws that had been passed, that one or both of these would be on the list. Do you think immigration laws affect the states receiving international students?

  2. The mutual exchange programs are some time very beneficial for students. well written....
    job in new zealand

  3. @yh2100 ~ Good point about the immigration policies as a variable to deter international students. Arizona was #19 and Alabama was #31.

  4. Have you compared this to stats for the bottom 11 states *sending* US students to study abroad?

  5. @Ruth ~ Great idea! I just checked and Open Doors does not provide a ranking and on the individual state fact sheets they provide numbers of students abroad but not an overall ranking. Time permitting I will go and calculate these figures as this has now become an interesting topic for me.

  6. An update has been added to the original post. Perhaps additional comments will be made so that the post is as accurate as possible.

  7. I am interested in knowing where Tennessee ranks especially in light of the fact Nashville is home to Vanderbilt University.

  8. @Anonymous ~ Thanks for your message. Tennessee ranked #30 and Vanderbilt was the leading host institution. More at You can also review the economic impact that international students had on the state of Tennessee ($158,374,000) via NAFSA at

  9. In your investigation into this timely topic, do you have an idea if these states that provide financial incentives to students to attend a school in the state?

  10. @Mike ~ Thanks for your comment. I haven't done enough research into this issue to know if states that provide financial incentives to students receive a higher number/percentage of the international student market share. It's a good question and an important variable to factor into the equation.

  11. The assumption that International students come to the United States for science and engineering was one that I believed until I read the Open Doors data on International Students fields of study. The Institute of International Education (2011) listed business 21.5% as the most popular career field for international students followed by engineering at 18.7% and science at 8.8%. Based on this data, what other factors contribute to the states falling in the bottom eleven receiving International Students?


    Institute of International Education. (2011). "International Students by Field of Study, 2009/2010 - 2010/11." Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from

  12. @Norma C. ~ Thanks for your comment. I don't know the answer but have really become intrigued with it. I don't there is/are any one or two variables that contribute but it would be interesting to research to try and discover some of the top contributing factors.

  13. One thing that jumps out to me that the states on this list have in common is low population...which in turn is likely why they don't have as many universities/colleges as more populated states. Mississippi is the highest on this "bottom" list and it ranks 32nd for population.

    Less unis = less students.

    Take Ohio for example--7th most populous state that has 13 publics (two of which enroll over 40,000 total students) and many highly ranked small private liberal arts colleges. I could be wrong, but I don't believe we have any consortium or state-wide recruitment initiative, but we have 7-8 schools that have 1000+ int'l students (the two largest being OSU and UC that combine for about 8500 int'l students).

    My insight is that it's a numbers game...

  14. @Frank ~ Thank you for continuing the discussion. I think you are correct that the numbers game is an important factor.

  15. I agree. This was a wonderful post. I am curious to see where New Jersey ranks on this list. When I was in grad school a few years ago, I felt like I was outnumbered in the amount of how international students there were. Although, most of these students I a have a better friendship with now.

  16. @Kelly ~ Thanks for your comment. New Jersey ranked number 15. More available at

  17. I also agree that the populations of these states are a primary factor in their ability to draw international students. This underscores the need for these states to provide more study abroad opportunities for their students, which would be one way to increase the global literacy within these states. Also I wonder about the possibilities of putting together a virtual international classroom for students to share ideas and increase global awareness and understanding.

  18. @LSchaeffer ~ Many thanks for your comment. I agree that population size can be a factor. Once my dissertation is done I would like to see what the bottom fifth have been over the past several (5-10 years).

  19. As the number of international students increase, another point to consider is providing efficient levels of administrative support for international students studying online at a U.S. institution. Is this a concern or are existing strategies and processes applicable and effective?