Mar 23, 2021 06:14 AM

China Remains Top Source of Foreign Students in the U.S. Despite Pandemic Plunge

What’s New: Students from China represented the largest group of international students in the United States in 2020 despite bilateral tensions and an enrollment plunge resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

There were 382,000 Chinese students studying in U.S. schools in 2020, accounting for 31% of all international students, according to a new tally by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which manages the Department of Homeland Security’s student-visa monitoring system. The number declined by 92,000 from the previous year but still made China the biggest source of foreign students in the U.S., followed by India and South Korea.

The number of all foreign students in the U.S. on F-1 and M-1 student visas fell by 18% last year to 1.25 million, the report showed. Enrollment of new international students, those who were not enrolled in a program of study in the U.S. during the previous year, decreased 72% in 2020 from 2019, according to the report.

What’s the context: The plunge in foreign student enrollment in the U.S. reflected international travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic. U.S. consulates around the world paused nearly all routine visa processing last spring, making it impossible for students to take in-person interviews. As of March 1, only 43 of 233 consular posts were operating at full capacity, according to the State Department.

A survey of 700 colleges and universities last fall found that about 20% of international students were studying online remotely.

In 2018, foreign students contributed $44.7 billion to the U.S. economy and generated 46,000 jobs in education, accommodation, insurance and other sectors, studies showed.

Quick Takes are condensed versions of China-related stories for fast news you can use. To read the full story in Chinese, click here.

Contact reporter Han Wei (

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