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International Students Add $32.8 Billion to US Economy

The more than 1 million International students at universities and college in the U.S. added $32.8 billion and more than 400,000 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Those numbers come from economic data compiled by the Association of International Educators (NAFSA). NAFSA is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education, with 10,000 members in 150 countries.

"This is a 7.4 percent increase in job support and creation, and a 7.5 percent increase in dollars contributed to the economy from the previous academic year," NAFSA said.

International students and their families spent money on living expenses, tuition and fees most in California, New York and Massachusetts. Three U.S. jobs are created for every seven international students who enroll, NAFSA said. Spending is highest in the sectors of higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications and health insurance.

The bad news for the U.S. is that it lags behind "in the global competition for talent," NAFSA said.

While in the past 15 years, the number of students traveling abroad for higher education has doubled, 6 percent less of them are coming to America.

"NAFSA attributes this decline ... to the urgent need for the United States to develop proactive government policies and strategies to ensure the country remains globally competitive," the association said.

"They continue to bring billions of dollars to our nation's economy and hundreds of thousands of jobs for the American people," said Marlene M. Johnson, NAFSA executive director and CEO.

“If our campuses and communities are to continue to benefit from both the academic and economic benefits these students bring, we must ensure that our government policies encourage them to choose the United States as their first choice for higher education."

The economic analysis was conducted for NAFSA by Jason Baumgartner of Indiana University’s Office of International Services, using enrollment data from the Institute of International Education's Open Doors 2016 report.

The Open Doors 2016 report is produced 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.

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