By ADAM GONN / THE MEDIA LINE
A report released Monday by the Institute of International Education has indicated that the number of Middle Eastern students studying in the US increased significantly over the last academic year.
The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange is published annually to review the number of international students studying in the US and the number of American students studying abroad.
The report's data is based on surveys conducted at 2,800 universities and colleges.
"The reason that the number of Middle Eastern students has risen has to do with the fact that demand for US education has never gone down," Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra, the founding president of the American University of Kuwait, told The Media Line.
"There are many factors that affect this demand," Ghabra said. "On the one hand the high quality of American higher education, on the other hand the low level of regional education. This gap contributes to such aspirations [to study in the US]â€¦ People aspire to this kind of education, they know what it can do and they realize what they can learn."
"The Times just a few weeks ago published the top 200 universities in the world," he added. "There were Indian universities, Singaporean universities, a couple of Israeli universities but not a single Arab university or American university in the Arab world showed up."
The Middle Eastern nation with the most students studying abroad is Saudi Arabia, with 12,661 students overseas, an increase of 28 percent from the previous academic year. According to the survey, the most popular fields of study are business and management, followed by engineering, and physical and life sciences.
For the eighth consecutive year, the University of Southern California hosted the most international students (7,482). New York University hosted 6,761 students followed by Columbia University with 6,685 students, together making New York the U.S.'s top city for international students. On a state level, California ranked highest with 84,800 students.
64 percent of students studying overseas listed personal and family savings as their primary source of funding. Scholarships from US universities accounted for 22% of the funding.
While many wealthy oil states in the Gulf offer financial assistance to citizens wishing to study abroad, only 2.7% listed government funding as their main backing.
The report also referred to data from the US Department of Commerce showing that through fees and living expenses, international students inject $17.8 billion into the US economy, making higher education among the US's top service exports.
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