New state and congressional level economic data and U.S. study abroad demographic data with accompanying policy recommendations now available from NAFSA

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2014 — NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced an increase in dollars and jobs that international students and scholars bring to the United States. New data released today show that international students and their families at universities and colleges across the country supported 340,000 jobs and contributed $26.8 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2013-2014 academic year. This is an 8.5 percent increase in job support and creation, and a nearly 12 percent increase in dollars contributed to the economy from the previous academic year.

California, New York, and Massachusetts saw the largest benefits from spending by these students and their families on living expenses, tuition, and fees. Further analysis shows that three U.S. jobs are created or supported for every seven enrolled international students, by spending in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance.

Despite the annual increase of economic benefits, the United States continues to experience a decline in market share of international students. While the number of internationally mobile students has doubled over the past decade, the U.S. share of international students decreased by 10 percent, according to Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development and Project Atlas data. NAFSA attributes this decline, in part, to the urgent need for the United States to enact comprehensive immigration reform and to develop other proactive government policies and strategies to ensure the country remains globally competitive.

“As we continue to acknowledge the indisputable fact that international students contribute to the U.S. economy more each year, we cannot underestimate their immeasurable academic and cultural contributions to America’s colleges, universities and local communities,” said NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson. “International students build bridges between the United States and other countries, bring global perspectives into U.S. classrooms and research labs, and support U.S. innovation through science and engineering coursework.”

During this 15th celebration of International Education Week (held from November 17-21, 2014), NAFSA also calls attention to its longstanding policy recommendations which contain critical enhancements to the nation’s ability to benefit from the important contributions of international students and scholars. These policy reforms, some more than a decade in existence, provide a vital roadmap to increasing the United States’ ability to attract and compete for the world’s best and brightest to study or conduct research here.

“We must find a way to make the United States a more welcoming nation, a value upon which this country was founded,” explained Johnson. “If Congress doesn’t take action and pass commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform, we will lose talented international students. The billions of dollars they contribute to this nation, along with the invaluable academic and cultural contributions they bring, will be at risk.”

The economic analysis was conducted for NAFSA by Jason Baumgartner, director of information services with Indiana University-Bloomington’s Office of International Services, using enrollment data from the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2014 report, which is produced in partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and using tuition and expense data from the Department of Education’s National Center of Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.


NAFSA’s latest study abroad demographics chart offers further data on participation trends, illustrating that the demographics of U.S. study abroad students are not yet reflective of overall U.S. higher education enrollment.

NAFSA also released today a breakdown of the percentage of college students in each state who studied abroad in 2012-2013, allowing institutions and state leaders to gauge how they compare with national trends. The report shows that any given year, only 1% of all U.S. college students study abroad.

These data illustrate the need for NAFSA’s longstanding policy recommendations to exponentially increase international education opportunities for all students as they graduate into today’s competitive global economy. Read NAFSA’s policy recommendations on study abroad.

NAFSA’s analysis on study abroad trends is based on data from the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2014 report, which is produced in partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and data from the Department of Education’s National Center of Educational Statistics.


With nearly 10,000 members in 150 countries, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education. Visit our online press room at To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit