Are Officials Exaggerating Number of Saudi Students in America?

Saudi officials often like to boast about the number of Saudi students abroad, especially in the United States. Mohammed al-Eisa, the Saudi cultural attaché in Washington DC, recently told Asharq al-Awsat that the number of Saudi students going to US schools has reached 66,000 during the last year. However, Saudi writer Mahmoud Sabbagh has raised some questions about the real number of Saudi students in the US. Sabbagh points to stats released by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which said that the number of Saudi students going to American schools in the academic year 2011/2012 is only 34,139 students. According to IIE, a DC-based non-profit organization, this number represents a 50 percent increase from the previous year, but this is still much smaller than the numbers often repeated by Saudi higher education officials. China, India and South Korea are the top three countries sending students to the US. Saudi Arabia is fourth.