Hundreds of thousands of Chinese students are flocking to US colleges and universities, helping to push the number of international students studying in America to record levels.
The number of American students studying abroad has also hit an all-time high.
The findings are in an analysis that was conducted by a nonprofit group that worked with the US State Department. It was released yesterday.
Foreign students contribute about US$24 billion annually to the US economy, and about two-thirds of them primarily pay their own way or their families do, according to the Institute of International Education and the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
All told, 819,644 students came to the United States to study in the 2012-2013 school year. The highest numbers were from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada. That is a record high, up 7 per cent from a year earlier and 40 per cent from more than a decade ago.
Despite the increases, international students make up fewer than 4 per cent of all students.
About 235,000 of the international students were from China, a 21 per cent increase year on year. A burgeoning middle class in China was cited as a factor. About one-third studied business and management once they arrived, the report said.
"Chinese students and their parents are looking for high-quality education, get the importance of international education, and it's making America the No 1 destination because we actually have the capacity to absorb international students," said Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the institute.
The number of students from Saudi Arabia studying in the United States jumped 30 per cent, to 45,000. These students are largely funded by a Saudi government scholarship programme nearly in its 10th year, the report said.
By contrast, 283,332 US students studied abroad for academic credit, a 3 per cent increase from a year earlier. In the past 20 years, the number of US students studying abroad has tripled. But fewer than 10 per cent of American students study abroad during their college years.
Britain, Italy, Spain, France and China were the top destinations.
A State Department programme called 100,000 Strong, which officially started in 2010, aims to send 100,000 American students to China over a four-year period.
The report found that 14,887 Americans studied in China in 2011-2012, a 2 per cent increase, but that does not include students going to China for noncredit programmes.
"We encourage study abroad whether it's short term, long term, whether it's credit, noncredit," said Evan Ryan, a State Department official, on a conference call with reporters.
China also dominates foreign student enrolments in countries including Canada and Australia.