New NAFSA Data Show First Ever Drop in International Student Economic Value to the U.S.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced new data today that show that the more than one million international students at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2019-2020 academic year contributed $38.7 billion to the U.S. economy, which is down 4.4 percent (a loss of $1.8 billion) from the prior academic year. This is the first time that the dollar amount has dropped since NAFSA began calculating the economic contributions of international students and their families to the U.S. economy, more than 20 years ago.

The new research also reveals:

  • a decline of almost 2% in the number of overall international students (1,075,496; which includes those on optional practical training), the first time that figure has dipped since the 2005-2006 academic year;
  • a reduction in the number of jobs created/supported, on average, by international students: for every 8 international students, 3 U.S. jobs are created/supported. In previous years, 3 jobs were created/supported by just 7 international students; and
  • the total number of jobs created/supported (415,996) by international students declined by 42,294 (9.2%) from last year;
  • the dollar impact of COVID-19 on the economic contributions of international students was $1.17 billion, and,
  • new international student enrollment declined for the fourth straight year.

NAFSA’s analysis does account for the impact of COVID-19 on spring 2020 student enrollment when U.S. schools moved all coursework online.

“Unfortunately, this disappointing news is not surprising,” explained NAFSA Executive Director and CEO, Dr. Esther D. Brimmer. “For the past four years international students and scholars have had to endure travel bans, executive orders, detrimental regulatory actions and xenophobic rhetoric from the highest levels of U.S. government. The lack of a coordinated national pandemic response made the situation even more difficult.  As the economic value decreases, we are reminded of the immense contributions that international students bring to America. We cannot afford to lose these talented individuals to a competitor country. Our policymakers and legislative leaders must reaffirm America’s commitment to international students and scholars because our universities and colleges have never stopped doing so, and neither have our competitor countries.”

Other findings of this analysis include:

  • For community colleges:
    • 79,187 international students (down 8.3 percent from last year); $2.3 billion contributed by international students (down percent from last year) and 12,116 jobs supported (down 13.4 percent from last year);
  • The top ten states by dollars remain the same in the following order: California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, however this year Washington replaces Indiana for the #10 slot;
  • Again this year, 9 states broke the $1 billion mark (the top nine states listed above).

These reports, also broken down by state and congressional district at, illustrate the important economic contributions of international students at a time when our economy is struggling to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.. NAFSA’s analysis uses data from the following sources: enrollment data from the 2020 Open Doors report, published by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; tuition and expense data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center of Educational Statistics; and job creation data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Sample Tweet: Latest @NAFSA data: #IntlStudents contribute $38.7 billion & nearly 416,000 jobs to U.S. economy—but their enrollment continues to decline. #IEW2020

About NAFSA: With more than 10,000 members, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education. Visit us at To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit and @ConnectOurWorld on Twitter.

SOURCE NAFSA: Association of International Educators