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Jun 17, 2014 11:41 AM EDT

International Students Coming to America for College More Than Ever, But Why Aren't They Staying?

An increasing amount of international students are dissatisfied with their college experience in America and the leading cause is money.

According to a new study from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students' expectations of the American college experience are often not fulfilled. In a survey conducted for the study, the top three contributors to this letdown were all financial.

"All top three reasons for dissatisfaction reported by students relate to financial aspects and include access to jobs or internships, affordability and availability of scholarships... the top three reasons by [colleges] are diverse and include transfer to a better fit institution, financial reasons and academic difficulties," Rebecca Morgan, a NAFSA spokesperson, told USA Today.

Led by Rahul Choudaha, chief knowledge officer for World Education Services, the researchers wanted to find the reason why international student retention rates are low when the country has a record number of such students.

500 international students at 83 institutions responded to an online survey, as did 480 international instructors from 100 institutions. The Institution for International Education found there are 819,644 foreign students in U.S. colleges and universities right now, a 40 percent increase from 10 years ago. What's more is these international transfer students are contributing about $24 billion to the U.S. economy, so there is certainly an incentive to recover those retention rates.

"There is a gap between expectations of the students set during the admissions phase and what they experience once they arrive on the campus," Choudaha told USA Today. "In addition, there is a gap between what student rate as important to their experiences and what institutions perceive as important for students."

Some students also cited cultural differences as a contributor to a difficult transition, but rising Middlebury College senior Joanne Wu said her experience has been smooth. She acknowledged that there are several reasons why an international student could feel overwhelmed at an American college, but money is the biggest one. She said American colleges would do well to educate international students in the legal system and how to understand their work visas.

"Providing workshops that help international students understand the job market and how their visa-status relates to jobs and internships would be very helpful," Wu told USA Today. "The difficulty of finding an employer willing to sponsor work visas and the rising cost of education sometimes make returning home the only option for international students."

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