The trend comes as learning abroad at a prestigious American university becomes more popular among foreign students, and as California public colleges increasingly count on the revenue generated by the higher tuition international students pay.
California schools enrolled about 205,000 foreign students in March, up from 99,000 in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of State. About 75 percent of those students were in public or private colleges.
That translates to about 5 student visas per 1,000 California residents. Only four states – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Delaware – had a higher ratio of student visas. Most of those states, like California, have renowned schools attractive to international students.
The most recent data on foreign student enrollment by individual college comes from 2014. Among California colleges, the University of Southern California enrolled the most international students in 2014, about 10,000, or almost a quarter of the student body, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Most of those students were in graduate school.
Next in line were UCLA and UC Berkeley, which each had more than 6,000 international students in 2014, or close to 15 percent of their student body. In the California State University system, San Jose State had the highest number of international students, at 3,600, or 11 percent of its student body. Among community colleges, Santa Monica College topped the list, enrolling about 3,300 international students, roughly 11 percent of its student body.
More than 80 percent of foreign students studying in California come from Asia, federal data show.
The trend has come with some controversy. The California state auditor recently issued a report saying the University of California has disadvantaged resident students because of an increased emphasis on recruiting applicants from out of state and overseas. The UC system took in $727 million in nonresident fees in 2014-15, including foreign and out-of-state students, up from $227 million in 2005-06. UC officials say the extra money allows them to underwrite slots for California students following years of budget cuts.