The push by Colorado colleges and universities to attract foreign students — and the dollars they bring with them — appears to be paying off.
While the state only ranks 26th in the nation in the total number of international students attending school here, according to an annual study by the Institute of International Education, the total of 8,445 that enrolled during the 2011-12 school year is up almost 10 percent from the previous year. In addition, those students contributed more than $253 million to the state's economy.
According to the Institute, the University of Colorado-Boulder ranked first with 1,681 international students, followed by the University of Denver with 1,430. Colorado State University (1,352) was third, with the University of Colorado-Denver (1,116) and the Colorado School of Mines (652) rounding out the top five.
"Global student experiences enrich the academic and cultural environment of our campus and beyond," CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said in a statement. "They create some of our best ambassadors around the world who do our community great honor."
In the fall of 2011, there were 228,467 new international students enrolled in colleges across the United States, up 6.5 percent from the previous year. California ranked first, with 102,789 students, with New York second at 82,436.
Among individual schools, the University of Southern California led the nation with 9,269, followed by the University of Illinois with 8,997.
The nation with the most new students studying in the U.S. in 2011-12 was China, with 104,029, followed by India, with 100,270. In Colorado, 25 percent of the foreign students were from China, followed by Saudi Arabia at 13.7 percent and India at 8.9 percent.
Among area schools, CU-Boulder has set a goal of having international students comprise 10 percent of its student population. Similarly, CSU recently became just the third university in the U.S. to contract with INTO University Partnerships, a private company that helps schools attract international students. School officials say their goal is to approach the 2,500-student mark within the next five years.