NAICU Washington Update

Higher Education Leaders Call for a National Strategy to Increase International Student Enrollment

November 19, 2021

This week, as part of International Education Week, NAICU joined seven other higher education associations in formally calling for federal action to increase international student enrollment on U.S. college and university campuses.  The statement follows months of work among the higher education community on strategies for engaging Congress and the Biden Administration on ways to develop and implement a national strategy to return international student enrollment and exchanges to pre-COVID 19 numbers.

The Departments of State and Education support this call to action, and agree with the need for a national strategy.  They issued a joint statement on renewing the U.S. commitment to international education earlier this year.  The statement acknowledges that having a robust exchange of students, researchers, scholars, and educators strengthens relationships between the U.S. and other countries and between current and future leaders.  These relationships are necessary to address global challenges, enhance U.S. prosperity, increase opportunities to learn diverse perspectives, and increase worldwide peace and security.  The two agencies recognize that rebuilding the nation’s international student population is a vital part of the economic recovery and rebuilding from the pandemic.  

As an indicator of how the loss of international students is harming the economy, a recent study by NASFA: Association of International Educators found that the overall economic impact generated by these students had fallen $1.8 billion during the 2019-2020 academic year, from $40.5 billion in the 2018-2019 academic year. For the 2020-2021 academic year, which took place entirely during a time of pandemic-related travel restrictions, the international student contribution to the U.S. economy dropped by an additional $12 billion.

International Education Week celebrates the extraordinary contributions international students and educators make to college and university campuses across the country.  It’s an ideal time for the federal government to partner with the U.S. higher education community on a national strategy to increase the number of international students in the U.S. and ensure that the nation returns to its pre-pandemic high water mark of more than 1 million international students set in 2015.

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