Students From Sub-Saharan African Nations at U.S. Colleges and Universities, 2020-21

The Institute for International Education’s new Open Doors report finds that in the 2020-21 academic year, there were 39,061 students from sub-Saharan Africa enrolled at colleges and universities in the United States. They made up 4.3 percent of the 1,075,496 foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities that year. With travel and visa restrictions resulting from the pandemic, the number of students from sub-Saharan Africa was down 6.3 percent from the prior year. Overall, international student enrollment was down by 15 percent.

Among sub-Saharan African nations, Nigeria in 2020-21 sent the most students to American colleges and universities. That year, there were 12,860 Nigerians studying here, down by 6.6 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 seven years, there has been a 62 percent increase in Nigerian students at American universities. The number of students from Nigeria this year is three times the number of students from any other sub-Saharan African nation. Nigerians make up a third of all students from sub-Saharan African who studied in the United States in the 2020-21 academic year.

In 2020-21, Ghana ranked second, sending 4,229 students to the United States. The number of students from Ghana was up slighlty from the previous year. Kenya ranked third this year. The 3,502 students from Kenya was a decrease of 5.6 percent from the previous year.

Ethiopia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Cote d’Ivoire each had more than 1,000 students studying in the United States. Cameroon and Uganda both sent more than 800 students to study at U.S. colleges and universities. Tanzania and Angola each sent more than 500 students to study abroad in the United States.

All told, more than 50 nations from sub-Saharan Africa had college students studying in the U.S. during the 2020-21 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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