Yesterday, NAFSA released its annual international student economic value analysis as it has for more than 20 years.

As you will see reflected in the findings, our field has been impacted significantly by the turbulence of the pandemic. Yet, as we celebrate International Education Week, it fills me with pride that NAFSA continues to provide its members and practitioners around the world high-quality, comprehensive data, research, and analysis even and especially in this critical moment.

NAFSA’s economic analysis plainly reveals the hard economic consequences of the significant reductions of in-person study in the United States that we witnessed last academic year:

Findings show that international students at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $28.4 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2020-2021 academic year, a decline of nearly 27 percent (or $10.3 billion) from the prior academic year.

I encourage you all to explore the new data and see how your state and congressional district fared. As ever, these facts and figures are vitally important to communicating with lawmakers why the work we do to recruit and retain international students is so important. Please be sure to sign up for our Connecting our World advocacy newsletter to ensure you are informed of an easy way to share these findings with your members of Congress later in the week.

Important as the impact of international students is on U.S. economic and educational vitality, the impact of U.S. higher education on international students is equally important. I invite you to review the compelling stories NAFSA has compiled to illustrate the accomplishments of international students.

So, far from feeling defeated that the recent downward trend is inevitable or that international education is on the wane, I am heartened by several positive signs that speak to the resilience and fortitude of NAFSA and our field:

  • NAFSA has put forth a robust and thoughtful plan for a national strategy for international education. We joined with our coalition partners in affirming the importance of such an approach to creating vibrant and diverse centers for learning on U.S. campuses and fueling our economy, and crafted detailed recommendations for the Biden administration to advance the concept forward.
  • NAFSA also recently released a new white paper: “Sustainability in International Education: Extended Reflections by the 2020-21 NAFSA Senior Fellows”. This exciting new publication delivers new insights by global visionaries into the nexus between climate change, sustainability, and international education and furthers NAFSA’s role as a cutting-edge convener and knowledge creator.
  • On Wednesday, November 17, NAFSA will showcase the best in campus internationalization as we convene a virtual panel of leaders from the 2021 Simon Award-winning institutions. This year’s recipients will discuss their successful approaches to building globally engaged learning centers and preparing their students for an interconnected world. We all can be inspired by their innovation and creativity.

These developments—especially when combined with IIE’s new fall 2021 Snapshot Survey data that indicate a 68 percent increase in the number of new international students enrolling at U.S. higher education institutions—suggest we are emerging from this storm with strength. While these in-person international student enrollment numbers are a far cry from the high water mark, it’s encouraging to see such an increase. We clearly have much work to do to recover and reach international education’s full potential, but NAFSA is poised to again push the field forward as we step into this critical moment.