While the United States continues to talk about building walls and deporting Dreamers, Canada is opening its doors to young people from around the world, actively recruiting greater numbers of international students as part of its strategy to stimulate economic growth. Recent reports indicate some 353,000 international students currently attend Canadian colleges and universities and the country’s goal is to welcome another 100,000 by 2022.
The United States would be wise to emulate such an approach. Our system of higher education is recognized as the best in the world and has been a magnet for many talented, hardworking people. But while most elite colleges and universities are holding steady with international student recruitment, other institutions have reported drops of as much as 50 percent. Students cite compelling concerns, including the ever-changing travel ban and cuts to the H-1B visa program that make it more difficult to secure employment after graduation.
Our neighbors to the north are capitalizing on something America’s colleges and universities have long understood: international students are a major boon to the economy. The latest analysis from the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors found that the 1,043,839 international students studying in the U.S. during the 2015-2016 academic year contributed $32.8 billion to the economy and either created or supported more than 400,000 jobs. And this prosperity was shared across the country.
In New York, where I am the president of Pace University, international students contributed nearly $4 billion to the state economy and supported more than 46,000 jobs. In Texas, those numbers are nearly $2 billion and 24,000 jobs; Indiana, $956 million and more than 12,000 jobs; and in California, our largest state, they contributed more than $5 billion and supported nearly 60,000 jobs. The loss of that kind of revenue would have a serious impact on local, state, and federal coffers. The U.S. is not alone in facing such economic fallout. The Higher Education Policy Institute projects that a Brexit-related cap on foreign student visas may cost the U.K. as much as two billion pounds per year.
Further, while international students contribute significant revenue to our economy, they receive far less in financial aid than American peers and approximately 75 percent receive most of their funding from sources outside of the United States. Many international students pay full tuition here and if they attend state institutions, they often pay double what in-state students pay.
Valuable for far more than financial assets, international students also transform the educational experience. For all students and faculty, whether in the classroom or in everyday interactions, they share diverse skills, perspectives, and customs, which helps all students prepare for careers in this global world. They also infuse our campuses with the spirit of innovation and willingness to take measured risks. After all, it takes courage to travel thousands of miles from family and all that is familiar to seek higher learning in another country. The benefits of their presence continue to unfold after graduation, when relationships formed between international and American students can lead to longer-term associations in the worlds of business, medicine, government, and more.
In more ways than one, the loss of so many bright, hardworking young people is something the United States simply cannot afford. Indeed, this country has and should continue to thrive as the world’s leader in higher education.
By Marvin Krislov
Marvin Krislov is the President of Pace University in New York.
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