The United States has become the primary destination for Chinese students wishing to study abroad, receiving more than 170,000 students over the past two years. That shouldn't really surprise anyone. The real news is the wave heading in the other direction: the multiplying numbers of American students arriving to study in China, the Central News Agency reports.

Overall, the total count of U.S. going to foreign colleges has tripled in the past two decades, according to a report released year by the Institute of International Education, says the San Jose Mercury News. Among the 270,604 American students studying abroad in 2009-10, China has become the fifth most popular destination with 5.1% of students studying there.

The number of American students studying in China has increased nearly ten-fold since 1995 from 1400 students to 13,910 in the 2009-10 school year according to the report.

Rajika Bhandari, the Institute of International Education's deputy vice president for research and evaluation, told the Mercury News that “U.S. students are increasingly aware of the need to obtain more practical skills, foreign language skills and cultural experiences that can help them be more competitive in their careers. China provides the perfect opportunity for that.”

Financial factors play an important role in U.S students’ choice.

While a lot of U.S. colleges charge annual fees of tens of thousands of dollars, the annual tuition at Peking University, one of China’s top universities, is a relative bargain at $3,900. "With higher education becoming more expensive in the Western world, affordability is a big factor," Bhandari told the Mercury News.

The China Scholarship Council is offering 25,000 scholarships to foreign students, to be increased to 50,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to increase the number of Americans in China through its "100,000 Strong" initiative.

According to Central News Agency, the UK remains the American students’ first destination for studying abroad with 32,683 students, accounting for 12.1% of the total. After that they choose Italy, Spain and France.