America's colleges and universities are seeing record numbers offoreign students, thanks to a surge from China and heavy enrollment from elsewhere in Asia, a report released Monday said.

The report by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the US State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs found a five-percent in rise in international university students in the United States compared to one year ago.

Asia accounted for four of the top five countries take advantage of the US higher education system, the study said.

The record high number of post-secondary international students in the United States hit 723,277 for the 2010/11 academic year, according to the annual report.

"Increased numbers of students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level, largely accounts for the growth this past year," it read.

"Chinese students increased by 22 percent in total, and by 43 percent at the undergraduate level," it added.

Most foreign students pay for their US studies with their own or family funds, the IIE said.

China was in the number one spot, while India was the number two country of origin, although it was one down one percent from the previous year.

South Korea was third, up two percent, and Canada was number four, with its figures dipping two percent.

Taiwan held the number five spot, with its numbers down seven percent.

Saudi Arabia was in sixth with a 44-percent increase, while Japan was seventh, down 14 percent.

Vietnam was the number eight country of origin, up 14 percent, while Mexico and Turkey rounded out the top 10.

The United States is touting its educational excellence not just for diplomatic, or international outreach reasons, but because higher education is very big business, officials said.

"International education is a major growth industry for the United States," said acting Under Secretary of State Ann Stock.

It provided $21.3 billion in income to the United States "even in tough economic times, like last year," she stressed.

That was almost double what international students contributed to the US economy a decade ago, $10.2 billion, the IIE said.

While the number of students from India studying in the United States was flat, the number of US students who chose India as a host country skyrocketed, rising by 44.4 percent, the IIE said.

And American students still flock in droves to Western Europe to study.

Britain, Italy, Spain and France were the top destinations for US students. Last year however, China came in fifth place, bumping Mexico out of that spot.