As the immigration debate shifts gears to the House of Representatives, international educators now have new data and a new web-based, interactive tool to use in educating their representatives on the economic value international students and their dependents contribute to the U.S. economy. The International Student Economic Value Tool shows that the 764,495 international students studying across the United States supported nearly 300,000 jobs and contributed $21.8 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2011-2012 academic year. Further analysis shows that for every 7 enrolled international students, 3 U.S. jobs are created or supported as a result of spending in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance. With the tool's interactive map, users can easily find the data for their individual congressional districts.

"For years I've been using NAFSA's economic data on international students to show my members of Congress why they need to invest in what we do,"said Sherif Barsoum, director of International Student and Scholar Services at Vanderbilt University and NAFSA Vice President for Public Policy and Practice. "This interactive tool presents the data in a new way that will help my fellow advocates and me paint a better picture of the value of international education to our elected officials."The United States is in a global competition for talented international students and scholars with other nations that have friendlier immigration policies. According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) findings , the number of international students studying worldwide nearly doubled from 2.1 million to 4.1 million over the past decade. According to Institute for International Education Project Atlas data during that same time frame, the number of international students studying in the United States grew by 31%, while the percentage share of international students worldwide studying in the United States decreased by 10%.

"These data clearly show the tremendous economic costs we face unless Congress acts decisively to break down barriers for the best and the brightest international students and scholars to come here,"said NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson. "Congress must pass commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform so that we can expand our ability to recruit, integrate, and graduate talented international students, strengthen our economy, and reclaim the values that make this nation a land of opportunity, equality, and freedom."

Gina Daniele at Speaker Boehner’s office in Washington, DC
Gina Daniele, an international student adviser at The Ohio State University is looking forward to using the new tool in her advocacy work over the next year as part of NAFSA's Grassroots Leadership Program. "Having such a user-friendly tool will help me easily share data on international students in Ohio along with my own personal stories about the benefits these students bring to campus,"said Daniele. "I will be sharing this information with Speaker Boehner, who represents Ohio's 8 th district, which will have a positive impact on the immigration debate."The economic benefit analysis and online tool was developed working closely with Indiana University-Bloomington's Office of International Services Information Services team, led by Jason Baumgartner, director of information services.

"This expands upon over a decade of robust analysis of the import dollars of international students' economic contribution, and furthermore now includes a new rigorous analysis of the direct and indirect impact to U.S. jobs that occurs due to that economic contribution,"said Baumgartner. "This new tool also enables people to now see these trends of the impact in actual dollars and jobs across the U.S., states, and congressional districts in a more clarifying way than ever before."Baumgartner's analysis is conducted using international student enrollment data provided by the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors report , and tuition and expense data provided by Wintergreen Orchard House, a leading college data provider, along with U.S. Department of Commerce data and additional research on an extended multiplier effect on innovation sectors by University of California-Berkeley economics professor Enrico Moretti.

In addition to the important economic benefits international students bring to the United States, they contribute incalculable academic value to U.S. colleges and universities and cultural value to local communities as international enrollments grow. Share valuable economic information and stories of cultural and academic contributions from international students not only with your members of Congress , but also with key stakeholders on your campus and in your community to show the importance of having international students at your institution and in your community. Sign up for more advocacy updates at

How are you using the new economic tool? Why do you value international students? Tell us in the comments below and tweet with #iValue.