For Immediate Release

Washington, November 13, 2018–NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced results from its latest economic analysis of international students studying in the United States. The new data released today showed that the more than one million international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $39 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 455,622 jobs during the 2017-2018 academic year. This represents a 1.2 percent increase in job support and creation and a 5.8 percent increase in dollars contributed to the economy from the previous academic year. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, education currently ranks as the nation’s 6th largest services export.

This year, once again the same 10 states broke the $1 billion mark in contributions from international students. 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. Further analysis showed that 3 U.S. jobs are created or supported for every 7 enrolled international students by spending in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications and health insurance.

NAFSA also found that the nearly 100,000 international students attending U.S. community colleges contributed $2.7 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 15,000 jobs during the 2017-2018 academic year.

These reports, also broken down by state and congressional district, show the economic benefits of international students continue to increase annually. Still, while the number of internationally mobile students has more than doubled since 2001, the U.S. market share of international students dropped by 4 percent, according to Project Atlas® data. Additionally, the growth rate of students choosing to study in the United States decreased since last year, while competitor countries experienced double-digit growth (Canada up 20%; Australia up 15%). NAFSA urges government leaders to enact proactive policies that will ensure the United States remains the top choice for prospective international students.

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

“The data continue to demonstrate that international students and scholars are a tremendous asset to our nation, contributing billions of dollars to our economy, thus generating hundreds of thousands of jobs in our local communities. And this is in addition to the immeasurable academic, security and cultural value these students bring. International students and scholars create jobs, drive innovation and serve as America’s best ambassadors and allies.

“At the same time, policymakers should be increasingly concerned about emerging indicators showing that the United States risks losing the long-term benefits of international student enrollment. For the second year in a row, there are declines in enrollment of new international students. The overall modest increases in the numbers of students studying in the United States are largely due to students remaining in the country to engage in experiential learning known as Optional Practical Training at the end of their studies, rather than as a result of new students joining our institutions. This means that in spite of the tremendous efforts by academic institutions to attract the best and brightest to our campuses, the United States is not replenishing the pipeline of talent at the rate needed if we are to remain a world leader in science, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The United States is in an intense competition for global talent, and the unwelcoming rhetoric and policies at the highest echelons of government are reverberating and inadvertently encouraging student and scholars to study elsewhere. We urge Congress to exercise thoughtful oversight and enact welcoming, inclusive policies that will allow our international ties to flourish.”

The economic analysis was conducted for NAFSA by Jason Baumgartner of Indiana University’s Office of International Services, using enrollment data from the Institute of International Education's Open Doors 2018 report, which is produced in partnership with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, tuition and expense data from the U.S. Education Department's National Center of Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and jobs data from the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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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.