Most foreign students studying at colleges in Salt Lake City, Provo and Orem in recent years were pursuing bachelor’s degrees related to science, math or business.
And most of those students came from South Korea, China or India, according to a national study released Friday.
The Utah trends mirror national ones — two-thirds of foreign students across the country are studying for such careers. About half of their American peers are majoring in those fields, according to the report from the nonprofit Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase.
As state and federal officials call for more engineers, developers and health professionals, the nation’s foreign students — about 3.4 percent of the college population — could help fill the perceived gap, said Neil Ruiz, who authored the study.
Graduating foreign students can offer those skills to employers in and near their colleges with the added bonus of having already acclimated to the area, Ruiz said. "This is their new hometown away from home in the U.S.," he said.
The study focused on about 120 cities nationwide with the biggest proportions of foreign students, compiling federal immigration data from 2008-2012.
About two in five international students in Salt Lake City, Orem and Provo stayed in the area after graduation to work under a federal job training program. That’s a bit below the national average of 45 percent.
Business-related fields, including management and marketing, were most popular among foreign students in the three cities, followed by engineering, health and computer science.
Other details from the report:
• Salt Lake City ranked at number 55 for its tally of foreign students, with 4,200 making up about 2 percent of its student population. Most called China home, with India coming in second.
• Most took courses at the University of Utah and Westminster College, followed by Salt Lake Community College and Stevens Henager College.
• As a pair, Provo and Orem ranked 70th nationwide with 3,500 international students, who largely attended Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. Most came from South Korea, followed by Canada.
• About 40 percent of foreign students in Utah’s capital city studied science, technology and math-related fields, compared to just shy of one in three in Provo and Orem.
• In Salt Lake City, about half were pursuing bachelor’s degrees; a quarter worked toward master’s degrees and just shy of 20 percent were studying in doctoral programs. In Provo and Orem, most were in bachelor’s programs, with 12 percent studying for master’s degrees and 4 percent pursuing doctorates.
Across the country, most foreign students come from fast-growing cities in China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, the study found.
Ithaca, New York, which is home to Cornell University, has the highest foreign student rate for the size of its student population, at about 70 percent.
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