International Students Bring $24 Billion to U.S. Economy

In case you missed it, a recent study from the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), found that international students offer more than just their talents and brainpower to the United States; they offer a tremendous economic benefit, to the tune of $24 billion in the 2012-2013 academic year. [See The Economic Benefits of International Students to the U.S. Economy, NAFSA Association of International Educators, 11.Nov.2013.] According to NAFSA, spending by international students supports 312,975 jobs in the United States, of which 114,614 are directly created by this spending, and 198,361 are indirectly supported. [See Total United States Direct and Indirect Jobs Created / Supported, NAFSA Association of International Educators, 11.Nov.2013.] In other words, their numbers show that: “…for every seven international students enrolled, three U.S. jobs are created or supported by spending occurring in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance.”

The statistics were compiled and analyzed for NAFSA by Jason Baumgartner at Indiana University / Bloomington’s Office of International Services, using federal data and international student enrollment figures from the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors 2013 report, produced in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State. [See Open Doors 2013: International Students in the United States and Study Abroad by American Students are at All-Time High, Institute of International Education, 11.Nov.2013.]

IIE’s Open Doors 2013 report provides a granular, high-resolution picture of America’s international student population. Among its key findings:

  • International student enrollment is on the rise in the United States, and last year posted a 7.2 percent gain over the 2011/12 academic year, to a total of 819,644 students in 2012/13.
  • In the past two academic years, undergrad enrollment has surged for international students, eclipsing enrollments of foreign grad students, reversing a long trend of graduate predominance.
  • The top five sending countries are: China (235,597 foreign students in the U.S., or 28.7 percent); India (96,754 / 11.8 percent); South Korea (70,627 / 8.6 percent); Saudi Arabia (44,566 / 5.4 percent); and Canada (27,357 / 3.3 percent).
  • The primary source of funds for more than 63 percent of international students here was personal and family funds, followed by nearly 21 percent whose primary funding comes from a U.S. college or university. Support from foreign governments and universities comprise about 7 percent of the total, while about 5 percent fund their education through current employment.
  • Among the top fields of study for international students here are: business and management (21.8 percent), engineering (18.8 percent), math / computer science (9.5 percent), and physical and life sciences (8.4 percent).

As the NAFSA study shows, there is an immediate and measurable economic benefit when foreign students come to the U.S. for higher education. That said, we shouldn’t lose sight of the intangible benefits that are just as real: cultural diversity, new perspectives, and a higher standard of academic excellence when our universities welcome the world’s best and brightest.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.