The growth in the number of international students coming to study in the United States hasn’t just slowed in higher education. The current administration’s efforts to more tightly control visa issuance has also slowed growth in the count of students from outside the country attending high school. Between 2004 and 2016, the number more than tripled to almost 82,000. However, according to a new report by the Institute of International Education (IIE), “the rate of growth has gotten smaller more recently.”

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IIE’s “Globally Mobile Youth: Trends in International Secondary Students in the United States, 2013-2016,” reported that “diploma-seeking” international students dominate visa acquisition at the secondary level. In 2016 72 percent of those students had F-1 visas, signifying that they intended to earn a U.S. high school diploma, while the remainder had J-1 visas, designating their status as exchange students in shorter-term programs.

According to the report, most of the international students attending high school in this country ultimately expect to enroll in higher education here as well and view their U.S. studies as a leg up on gaining acceptance to the colleges and universities they want to attend. The thinking among families of international students is that the experiences they have of learning in U.S. classrooms, the immersion they receive in English-language instruction and the adjustment they get to American life prior to college “can ease the transition of international students moving from U.S. high schools to higher education.”

The largest group of students holding F-1 visas — 78 percent — come from one area of the globe: East Asia. In particular, students from China dominate, making up 58 percent of all international high school students, followed by a smaller number coming from South Korea (7 percent).

The clear majority (94 percent) attend private schools, predominantly religious schools. In the case of public schools, some establish international exchange programs “to provide cross-cultural learning for their U.S. students.” Others — especially small or rural ones — build international programs “as a way to boost enrollment.”

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