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US: int’l students added $33.8bn to economy in 21/22

International students contributed some $33.8 billion in the 2021/22 academic year, with California seeing the largest economic benefit with $5.4bn, NAFSA has revealed.

Georgia was an outlier that made NAFSA's top ten for the first time. Photo: Pexels

California’s international student body also supported the creation of over 50,000 jobs

The total is up by $5.5bn (+19%) compared with the prior academic year, but it is still down on 2018/19 when more than one million international students generated $40.5 billion and supported more than 450,000 jobs.

California’s international student body supported the creation of over 50,000 jobs in 2021/22, while NAFSA calculated that international students countrywide supported more than 335,000 jobs.

NAFSA concurrently measures the financial contribution, and support of job creation, of international students to the US economy every year when Open Doors data is published.

In the top five, much like the Open Doors data itself, California, New York, Massachusetts and Texas were first to fourth; Pennsylvania, which was sixth in Open Doors data, took fifth with $1.7bn in financial contribution, over Illinois’ $1.6bn, after the state placed fifth in Open Doors. 

However, two outliers were noted by NAFSA’s measuring of financial benefits from international students: Arizona and Georgia. 

“New to the top 10 in this cycle is the state of Georgia – in the years that I’ve been working on this analysis, this is its first appearance in the top 10,” Rachel Banks, spokesperson for NAFSA, told The PIE News. 

“That really stuck out to me in an interesting way because we know that Georgia would have Atlanta as an innovative centre, but with Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia – which are big research intensive institutions – they’re likely increasingly attractive to international students,” she continued. 

Georgia’s entry into the top 10 came from a $200m surge on its financial contribution last year, which totalled around $662m – but this year’s figure of $835 saw the state looking much healthier, and overtaking the likes of Indiana. 

“[Georgia] is likely increasingly attractive to international students”

Arizona’s appearance in one of the top spots, where foreign students contributed $778m and supported 8,449 jobs, is concurrent with the biggest single-state rise in the Open Doors data, where 21.1% more international students studied year-on-year.

“Arizona was another state that also brought an increase in its economic contributions as well,” Banks added.

Both states also saw their highest international student figures ever.

Generally, while the financial contribution numbers are recovering, they are still not up pre-pandemic levels; something Banks feels means there is more to be done.

“I think it’s somewhat not surprising just because, you know, Covid is still around. You know, there are still issues around the world where there are closures and challenges to international students being able to get a visa or being able to travel from their home country,” Banks said.

“For example, China continually goes into periodic lockdowns and shutdowns because of Covid policy. So it’s not surprising that we still are below or pre-pandemic.

“The other issue is, of course, with enrolment is what our competitors are doing. The UK is doing more for international students; even through the pandemic, they were able to see growing international student enrolment. 

“Canada’s doing a really amazing job being attractive, changing its policies, making it possible for international students to work and such. So we still have a lot of factors at play here as to when we make that $40 billion,” Banks added.

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