The number of students from Saudi Arabia studying in the United States has leapt 30 percent in the past year with 45,000 students registered to US colleges and universities, a report showed.
The result means the kingdom is the second-highest contributor for overseas students in the US – behind only China, which has a massive 235,000 students in the US, an increase of 21 percent.
The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange found the number of international students at colleges and universities in the US increased by seven percent to a record high of 819,644 students in the 2012-13 academic year.
In 2012-13, 55,000 more international students enrolled in US higher education compared to 2011-12, with most of the growth driven by China and Saudi Arabia.
On Saudi, it said the students were largely funded by a Saudi government scholarship program nearly in its 10th year.
On a smaller scale, the continued expansion of the Kuwaiti government scholarship programs led to 37 percent more students coming from Kuwait, with its more than 5,100 students making it the newest addition to the top 25 sender list, the report said.
Foreign students contribute about $24bil annually to the US economy, with 72 percent of all international students mostly self-funded, including through personal and family sources as well as assistance from their home country governments or universities.
Students from the top three places of origin - China, India, and South Korea - now represent 49 percent of the total number of international students in the US, with the number from China increasing, and the numbers from India and South Korea declining. After these top three countries, no country represents more than 5 percent of the total.
With an increase of 25 percent to more than 8,700 students in the US, Iran moved up from the 20th leading sender to number 15 this year.
At the same time, there was a decline in the number of students from several major sending countries, including the second and third leading senders: India (down four percent for the second year) and South Korea (down two percent) and Taiwan (down 6 percent).
At the institutional level, the University of Southern California hosted the largest number of international students for the 12th year, followed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, New York University, and Columbia University.
University of Pennsylvania and University of California – Berkeley were new to the top 20 list this year, replacing Harvard University and University of Texas – Austin.