Statement from NAFSA CEO Marlene Johnson on State of the Union Address


International education vital to creating the students and scholars necessary for America to be the safe, economically healthy and influential country outlined by the President


Rebecca Morgan, 202.495.2553,
Alan Fleming, 202.495.2528,

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2016 - Marlene M. Johnson, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, issued the following statement on President Obama's State of the Union address: 

"Last night, President Obama described an America that is safe, economically healthy and influential in the world. NAFSA believes that America can be the country the president described by pursuing policies that ensure our responsible global leadership. To be secure, we must be able to understand and communicate with friends as well as foes around the world. To be globally competitive, we must create culturally literate students, or risk losing out to countries that put a premium on learning the languages and cultures of global consumers.

"To achieve these goals, the United States must implement policies and practices that welcome international students to our institutions and we must also institute policies  that will increase the number and diversity of U.S. students who study abroad. International education and the global competencies that it fosters in students and scholars is vital to U.S. diplomacy, national security and our economic well-being. During the 2014-2015 academic year, international students and their families supported 373,000 jobs and contributed $30.5 billion  to the U.S. economy. But we are in a global competition for talent, and if we do not adopt smarter policies, we are at risk of losing our ability to develop ties with future world leaders. 

"We cannot know with certainty where the next global hot spot will arise, with which region we will need to partner in order to contain an epidemic, or which country will become an economic powerhouse seeking goods and services from a trading partner outside its own borders. By nurturing deep understanding of all parts of the world now, through educating global learners, we will be better prepared to participate and lead in the future."