For Immediate Release

Washington, May 21, 2020 — NAFSA: Association of International Educators conducted a survey in early April of senior leadership at U.S.-based higher education institutions and international education organizations to gauge the financial impact of COVID-19 on the field of international education.

Results indicate that U.S. higher education overall has potentially lost nearly $1 billion due to shortened or canceled study abroad programs and spent approximately $638 million in financial support for international students, scholars, faculty and staff who remained on campus when courses moved online. Responses further estimate that U.S. higher education will lose at least $3 billion due to anticipated international student enrollment declines for fall 2020. Without congressional action and financial relief to support international education, it is estimated there will be a loss of more than $4.5 billion to U.S. higher education and tens of thousands of American jobs.

“With travel restrictions, visa delays, and economic instability worldwide, COVID-19 has been incredibly harmful to the field of international education,” said Esther D. Brimmer, Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. “We need Congress to support legislation protecting international education to save American jobs and ensure U.S. students remain globally competitive at time where we cannot afford to lose our competitive edge.”

Detailed survey results:

Study Abroad

  • 94% of institutions with study abroad programs reported shortened or canceled spring and summer programs, resulting in losses of $115 million; when estimated across all of U.S. higher education, potential losses total nearly $1 billion.
  • 65% responded that staff positions in education abroad offices have already or may be impacted by the cancellation of study abroad programs
  • Impacts include reduced hours, furloughs, eliminated positions, hiring freezes, and salary reductions
  • 61% expressed uncertainty if study abroad programs will be offered for fall 2020, while 15% anticipated cancellations

International Students

  • 38% indicated ongoing support for international students who remained on campus, spending nearly $42 million; when extrapolated across all of U.S. higher education, potential spending totals $418.5 million
  • Types of support include housing, scholarships, food, rent, airfare, and tuition refunds
  • 60% reported up to 5 staff positions funded by international student fees
  • 78% anticipate enrollment declines for fall 2020, with a loss of $192 million in revenue; when estimated across all of U.S. higher education, potential revenue losses total at least $3 billion

International Scholars, Faculty, Staff

  • 55% host or employ international scholars, faculty and staff, with 77% indicating ongoing support/employment during the crisis
  • 36% reported providing additional financial support totaling nearly $6 million; when estimated across all of U.S. higher education, expenditures approximate $219 million
  • 51% responded staff positions in international student/scholar offices would not be impacted by COVID-19, while 24% indicated it was too soon to know, and 21% said positions would be impacted
  • Impacts include reduced hours, furloughs, eliminated positions, hiring freezes, and salary reductions

Other Negative Financial Impacts

  • 41% reported additional negative financial impacts, such as loss of grants and contracts, enrollment declines due to the shift to online instruction, and compensation paid for cancelled programs.

To mitigate the pandemic’s damage on the international education field, and to position its recovery when it is safe for American students to study abroad and for international students and scholars to return to the U.S., NAFSA has prepared several requests to Congress. These include requests for policy changes, such as waiving the in-person interview requirement for visas, and direct financial assistance totaling $46.6 billion. Advocates of international education should contact their members of Congress to urge their support for these measures.

For the full report and methodology visit


About NAFSA: Serving more than 10,000 members and international educators worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. Visit us at To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit Resources to guide our members on these issues can be found at