Foreign Students Brought $21 Billion to US Economy Last Year

International students studying in the United States in the 2011-2012 academic year contributed more than $21.8 billion to the economy, according to research by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers. The report, titled What is the Value of International Students to Your State in 2012? also finds that the biggest beneficiaries of the foreign students [...]

International students studying in the United States in the 2011-2012 academic year contributed more than $21.8 billion to the economy, according to research by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers. The report, titled What is the Value of International Students to Your State in 2012? also finds that the biggest beneficiaries of the foreign students largesse over that year were California, New York and Texas.

Marlene M. Johnson, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO, said the international students don’t just bring financial benefits to the states that host them. They also contribute academically to US colleges and universities while providing cultural value to the surrounding communities of their schools.

According to the NAFSA, international students, as well as US students who choose to pursue studies abroad, create a strong cultural link between other countries and the United States. In addition, bringing international students into American classrooms provides a global perspective that is often limited or even non-existent.

Foreign students in US colleges and universities often enroll in some of the toughest engineering and science courses, thus making it economically feasible for schools to offer them to more students including those that come from the US.

Outside of class, spending by foreign students supports many local businesses, and their money also goes to benefit other parts of the local economy via rent and transportation payments and other expenses.

“However, there is much more we can do as a nation to promote student exchange and study abroad and this data clearly points to the potential future benefit of a cohesive and proactive international education strategy for our nation.”

In order to produce the 2012 edition of its annual report, NAFSA consulted data on the cost of living put together by the Wintergreen Orchard House and combines it with enrollment data collected by the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2012 report. The numbers were then analyzed for NAFSA by Jason Baumgartner, who is the director of information services at Indiana University-Bloomington’s Office of International Studies.

In total, the foreign students’ contribution to the US economy breaks down into two broad chunks. Over $15 billion is contributed via school tuition and various fees while the rest comes from living expenses of students and their dependents like spouses and children.

Economic impact of an international student equals tuition and fees, plus room and board, plus miscellaneous figured at 50 percent of room and board, less U.S. support. We assume: (a) that spring enrollment figures are the same as the fall figures reported, (b) that all students are enrolled full time for two semesters or three quarters a year, and (c) that students live on campus for the full year. The miscellaneous expenses, enumerated in Wintergreen Orchard House’s data, average about 40 percent of room and board expenses. We use a 50 percent figure as an approximation that includes all extra expenses except for travel.

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