In these tough economic times, foreign students and their dependents continue to make an important economic contribution to communities and campuses across the United States. NAFSA’s new report of economic impact shows that college students from other countries contributed $18.8 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2009-2010 academic year through tuition, fees, and living expenses for themselves and their families. This is a $1 billion increase from the previous academic year.

As international educators know, they also bring much more to our communities and campuses. A recent article in the Southeast Missourian highlights why foreign students matter to one college in the Midwest, where they bring $4 billion to the region. Gerald McDougall, dean of the Donald L. Harrison College of Business and international programs at Southeast Missouri State University told the newspaper:

The growth in the institution's international community is by design. A couple of years ago the institution launched an initiative to internationalize the campus…While the economic effect is a happy consequence of the expanded enrollment, the culture and perspective the international students bring is invaluable to a university preparing young minds to compete globally.

If you are on a college or university campus, NAFSA’s economic impact statements are great information to share with your federal and state relations offices as well as local news media (view NAFSA’s guide for working with the media). The statements contain the following information, organized by state, institution, and congressional district:

  • Number of foreign students enrolled
  • Cost of tuition and fees
  • Cost of living expenses (including those of dependents)
  • U.S. financial support
  • Total financial contributions of foreign students and their dependents

This data, combined with personal stories, can be powerful tools in bringing to life the real-world value of international education.