Washington - NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced new data today that show that the nearly one million international students at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $33.8 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2021-2022 academic year—up more than $5.5 billion (or 19%) compared to the prior academic year—and supported more than 335,000 jobs. These totals still fall short of the high-water mark set in the 2018-2019 academic year, however, when more than 1 million international students generated $40.5 billion and supported more than 450,000 jobs. NAFSA attributes the loss of approximately $2 billion dollars and 10,568 jobs in the 2021-2022 academic year to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s $5.5 billion increase in economic activity should be contrasted with the decline of $10.3 billion observed in the prior academic year—the largest single-year decline since NAFSA began tracking these figures more than twenty years ago.
“The increase in economic activity is certainly positive news but it should be kept in perspective: it shows we’ve only regained about half the ground lost in the previous academic year,” said Dr. Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA executive director and CEO. “We must not be complacent that this upward trend will automatically continue. The U.S. is in a global competition for talent and our share of the international student market is declining while other English-speaking countries are seeing their share rise. International students are a well-spring of fresh ideas, talent, and experiences and have fueled American innovation for generations. The Biden administration should lead a coordinated effort to recruit and retain a diverse number of them to our institutions as part of a comprehensive national strategy for international education while Congress must pass legislation to facilitate their ability to study and work here after graduation.”
NAFSA has long advocated for a national strategy for international education to proactively recruit talented students and scholars to U.S. colleges and universities from around the world as well as increase the number and diversity of U.S. college students who are able to study abroad before they graduate.
Additional key findings from NAFSA’s new economic research include:
- The total number of jobs supported (335,423) by the financial contributions of international students is up 9.5 % compared to the prior academic year. This figure dropped by 26.4% last year.
- For every three international students, one U.S. job is created/supported.
- In contrast, for community colleges, enrollment, dollars and jobs continued to fall: international student spending contributed $1.3 billion (down 13.4 %) and supported 6,095 jobs (down nearly 20%).
- The five states that saw the largest amount of economic activity were (in descending order): California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas and Pennsylvania—the same top five from last year, though Pennsylvania and Texas swapped spots.
- Eight states broke the $1 billion mark (up from seven states last year).
- This year, NAFSA also analyzed the economic contributions generated by international students enrolled in U.S. college and university English language programs. International students enrolled in these programs contributed $241.9 million (up 5.8%), and supported 2,250 jobs (up 2.2%). As with national figures, their economic contribution is higher yet remains well below pre-pandemic levels (65% below 2019-2020 level).
Year-over-year trends and detailed job sector analysis as well as data by state and congressional district are available to view at www.nafsa.org/economicvalue.
NAFSA’s analysis uses data from the following sources: enrollment data from the 2022 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.
NAFSA’s analysts discount the impact of inflation on the 2021-2022 figures given that institutions had already set their tuition and fees plus room and board before the start of the academic year.
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 www.nafsa.org/press. To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit www.nafsa.org/takeaction. Resources to guide our members on these issues can be found at www.nafsa.org/reginfo.