A major trend in international education is the increase in students studying abroad and enrolling in universities outside of their home countries. Each year billions of dollars are invested in educating bright minds and building relationships by sending students abroad for a well-rounded educational experience. Not only does this movement have profound impact on the future landscape of education, but the exchange of students is giving host countries an economic boost. A recent report by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors found that international students contributed nearly $22 billion to the United States economy in the school year 2011-2012.

The amount of International student in postsecondary institutions in the U.S. has exploded in the past decade to over 760,000 students today. Major drivers of this trend have been more recruitment efforts, growing reputations and visibility of U.S. institutions abroad and an overall increase in globalization. While this growth in foreign students has been exponential, there is still room for growth as international students only represent about 4% of U.S. college enrollment.  The amount of U.S. citizens studying abroad has also grown significantly; there are approximately 270,000 U.S. students currently abroad.

The increase in foreign students studying abroad is bringing about unexpected benefits in foreign direct investment, causing an inflow of capital and creating trade opportunities. Every student creates economic growth due to the tuition, living expenses and discretionary spending that they inject into the economy. A recent study found that 64% of international students rely primarily on personal and family funds to pay for their studies, while they pay for 22% of their expenses via U.S. college aid and the rest from their home government and student employment. These economic contributions are in addition to the many academic and intellectual benefits that international students bring to foreign campuses and communities.

Michigan State University has been a pioneer in international education, leading the nation in study abroad participation and having a top-notch international student program. Each year, the university sends close to 3,000 students on study abroad programs outside of the U.S. and welcomes nearly 6,000 international students. For more information on international education, as well as the impact that it has on international economies, I urge you to check out the NAFSA’s Economic Impact Analysis report.

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