US universities are now looking to aggressively recruit students from the Middle East by offering them scholarships in order to culturally diversify their campuses. The increased interest in the regional student market is set to be illustrated at the upcoming American Education Expo. More than 30 US universities will be offering grants worth up to $40,000 (Dh146,928) to UAE students to pursue their higher education in the US. The education exhibition is organised by the International Student Network (ISN) and is endorsed by the US Embassy. It will run for two days from Saturday in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. \"More and more US universities have been looking at increasing the recruitment of foreign students in recent years,\" Babish Soni, organiser from ISN, said. \"Therefore, they are aggressively increasing their scholarship offerings, some up to 50 per cent, targeted at students in the Middle East.\" A US Consulate official confirmed to Gulf News that international student numbers now stand at more than 600,000, which takes them back to what they were prior to September 11, 2001. Latest figures Education fairs such as the American Education Expo are supported by the US Department of Commerce as higher education is a ‘cash cow\' for the American economy. The latest figures show American education exports to be currently worth $17 billion. \"There are 24,000 students from the Middle East alone who travel to the US annually for university, with the average annual tuition fee costing $45,000 over four years,\" Soni said. \"So, the department of commerce is looking to recruit students from all over the world because besides cultural diversity, American higher education is still a cash cow as a large majority of international students are not there on scholarships but pay from their own pockets.\" The US consulate confirmed there are approximately 3,000 Emirati students currently studying at university in the US. However, the number of expatriate UAE residents at university in the US remains unknown. Yet, the highest number of GCC students in the US comes from Saudi Arabia. Soni said, \"The GCC region is definitely an engineering market when it comes to most popular programmes.\" For this reason, a majority of the 30 US university exhibitors at the expo will be promoting their engineering and computer systems programmes. The expected footfall to the expo, an annual event in the UAE for 12 years, is predicted to exceed 500.