Communities will suffer economic loss if enrollment declines continue
For Immediate Release

Washington, November 18, 2019 – NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced new data today that show that the more than one million international students at U.S. colleges and universities contributed nearly $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. This represents only a 0.6% increase in job support and creation and a 3.8% increase in dollars contributed to the economy from the previous academic year.

NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Esther D. Brimmer stated the following about the new data:

“The United States is strengthened by our long-standing commitment to academic exchange. This latest economic value analysis demonstrates the vast economic benefits international students and their families bring to the United States. Beyond this economic contribution, international students bring countless academic and cultural benefits to our classrooms, our communities and our country. International students and scholars create jobs, drive innovation, enrich our classrooms, strengthen our national security, and become our best ambassadors and allies around the world.”

Further analysis showed that for every 7 international students, 3 U.S. jobs are created or supported by spending in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications and health insurance. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, education currently ranks as the nation’s 5th largest services export, larger than business travel.

Other findings include:

  • Nine states broke the $1 billion mark in contributions from international students, down from ten the previous year.
  • However, the economic benefits in Indiana dropped below the $1 billion mark due to the 3% decline in international enrollment in the state.
  • California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas and Pennsylvania saw the largest benefits from spending by these students and their families on living expenses, tuition and fees.
  • While overall enrollment remained flat, the economic value increased due to increasing tuition and living expenses.

NAFSA also found international students at community colleges contributed $2.6 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 13,970 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. These economic benefits represent a 3% decrease in dollars contributed, and a 7.8% decrease in jobs created or supported when compared to the previous year.

These reports, also broken down by state and congressional district at, show the economic benefits of international students overall continue to increase annually despite the flattening of enrollment. The growth rate of students choosing to study in the United States continues to decline while competitor countries experience double-digit growth (Canada up 16%; Australia up 15%). NAFSA estimates the continued decline in international student enrollment since fall 2016 has cost the U.S. economy $11.8 billion and more than 65,000 jobs.

“This latest analysis showing the third consecutive year of declining new international enrollment reinforces our concern that the United States is losing talented international students and scholars,” continued Dr. Brimmer. “This is the first year we have seen both a decline in new international student enrollment and flat overall enrollment. International educators in the U.S. are going to extraordinary lengths to attract and recruit international students by participating in the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign and fostering welcoming environments on their campuses and communities. Their efforts have helped stay this downward trend. However, these efforts are often in direct contrast to the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies coming from government leaders. The longer the U.S. goes without a concerted, proactive government approach to recruiting international students, the more these potential students are going to look elsewhere for their studies. I encourage members of Congress to recognize the economic, cultural, and academic value of international students and scholars, and support policies that will create a more welcoming and globally engaged United States.”

NAFSA’s analysis uses data from the following sources: enrollment data from the 2019 Open Doors report, published by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; tuition and expense data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center of Educational Statistics; and job creation data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration and Bureau of Economic Analysis.



Sample Tweet: Latest @NAFSA data: #IntlStudents contribute nearly $41 billion & more than 458,000 jobs to U.S. economy #IEW2019

About NAFSA: With more than 10,000 members, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education. Visit us at To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit and @ConnectOurWorld on Twitter.