The Impact of International Students on the U.S Economy

In the academic year 2022-2023, the contribution of over one million international students to the U.S.


In the academic year 2022-2023, the contribution of over one million international students to the U.S. economy surged, reaching an impressive $40.1 billion. This marked a significant 19 percent increase from the previous academic year, as reported by NAFSA: Association for International Educators in Washington, DC, and highlighted in a Forbes article by Anna Esaki-Smith on Nov 13, 2023.

Recovery from Pandemic Lows:

Despite lingering below the peak of $40.5 billion in the 2018-2019 academic year, this financial injection signals the second consecutive year of growth following the negative impact of the pandemic that began in March 2020. The number of international students studying in the U.S. rebounded, rising by 12 percent to 1,057,188 in 2022-2023, surpassing pandemic lows, as documented in the Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Diverse Contributions Beyond Tuition:

International students play a pivotal role in the U.S. economy. Their contributions extend beyond tuition payments to higher education institutions, encompassing spending on accommodations, transportation, food, and consumer goods during their stay in the country. This multifaceted contribution has seen a consecutive annual increase, bringing both resilience and encouragement.

Wider Implications for Diplomacy and Security:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasised that international education isn’t solely about individual benefits; it also plays a crucial role in American diplomacy, economic competitiveness, and national security. The diverse global perspectives brought by international students contribute to a richer educational experience and a more interconnected world.

Economic Activity and Job Creation:

Fanta Aw, NAFSA’s executive director and CEO, stated that the economic activity of international students supported 368,333 jobs, witnessing a notable 9.8 percent rise from the previous year. NAFSA estimates that three international students contribute to the creation or support of one U.S. job. Noteworthy, California, New York, and Texas hosted the largest number of international students, with nine states surpassing the $1 billion mark in economic contributions.

Mapping the Impact:

A visual representation in the form of a map showcases that California, New York, and Texas emerged as the top states hosting international students, further highlighting the regional impact of this diverse student population on the U.S. economy.

Beyond Economic Impact:

The significance of international students goes beyond financial contributions. They enrich campuses with diverse experiences, provide global perspectives in classrooms, and become valuable members of global alumni networks, fostering cultural exchange and understanding, as emphasised by education experts.

Unacknowledged Economic Potential:

Eddie West, Assistant Dean at SDSU Global Campus, underscores that even when quantifying the economic impact of international students, the full extent of their benefits isn’t comprehensively assessed. Their contributions, including those staying in the U.S. after graduation on H-1B visas or through entrepreneurship, continue to positively influence national and local economies.

Regional Growth and Diversification:

The Open Doors data reveals a 35 percent increase in the number of Indian students studying in the U.S. in 2022-2023, showcasing a trend of diversification in international student demographics. Sub-Saharan Africa experienced the highest regional growth, and Ghana entered the top 25 places of student origin for the first time, indicating efforts by U.S. colleges and universities to diversify international student recruitment.


In conclusion, the impact of international students on the U.S. economy is multi-faceted and far-reaching. Their contributions, both economic and cultural, play a crucial role in shaping a globally connected and economically vibrant future for the United States.

Invitation To Engage:

Explore more insights on global education trends and economic impacts at the MuxBay Education Hub.