Students From Sub-Saharan African Nations at U.S. Colleges and Universities, 2019-20

The Institute for International Education’s new Open Doors report finds that in the 2019-20 academic year, there were 41,697 students from sub-Saharan Africa enrolled at colleges and universities in the United States. They made up 3.9 percent of the 1,075,496 foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities that year. The number of students from sub-Saharan Africa was up 3.5 percent from the prior year. Overall, international student enrollment was down by 1.8 percent.

It must be noted that these enrollment figures were for students who came to the United States before the pandemic. Many of these students may have gone back to Africa and may be unable to come back. Thus, the figures in next year’s report will be very interesting.

Among sub-Saharan African nations, Nigeria in 2019-20 sent the most students to American colleges and universities. That year, there were 13,762 Nigerians studying here, up by nearly 2.5 percent from the previous year. In the 2013-14 academic year, there were just 7,921 Nigerian students at U.S. colleges and universities. Thus, over the past six years, there has been nearly a 74 percent increase in Nigerian students at American universities. The number of students from Nigeria this year is more than 3.2 times the number of students from any other sub-Saharan African nation.

In 2019-20, Ghana ranked second, sending 4,221 students to the United States. The number of students from Ghana is up more than 15 percent from the previous year, after a 14 percent increase the year before. Kenya ranked third this year. The 3,710 students from Kenya was an increase of 7.3 percent from the previous year.

Ethiopia, Rwanda, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Comgo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Cote d’Ivoire each had more than 1,000 students studying in the United States. Tanzania, Angola, and Uganda both sent more than 800 students to study at U.S. colleges and universities. Senegal, Zambia, and Burkina Faso each sent more than 400 students to study abroad in the United States.

All told, 50 nations from sub-Saharan Africa had college students studying in the U.S. during the 2019-20 academic year.

Undoubtedly, some of these students from sub-Saharan Africa nations such as South Africa, and Zimbabwe are White, but there is no data to report on the racial or ethnic makeup of this group of African students at U.S. colleges and universities.


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