International students have big economic impact

If you wonder about the impact of international students on Hawaii’s economy, wonder no more.

It’s significant. Much more than any of us likely believed. Yes, education is also about dollars and cents.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism released a report Wednesday, “The Economic Impact of International Students in Hawaii – 2019 Update.” And it shows that the direct spending by foreign students in Hawaii was $216.9 million for calendar year 2018. This estimate includes the total living expenses and institutional tuition and fees.

Including the ripple effects, the total economic impacts of international students are the following:

• $446.7 million in economic output generated, including direct, indirect, and induced effects

• $34.3 million in state taxes generated

• $197.3 million in household income generated

• 4,576 jobs supported by international student spending

And, as officials pointed out, it’s not just about money.

“The benefits international students contribute to our state go far beyond their direct and indirect spending. Their presence in our schools promotes mutual understanding and global collaboration and is essential to building bridges that connect future world leaders,”said Gov. David Ige in a press release. “We are able to share Hawaii’s culture with the students and they, in turn, teach us about their culture. These experiences will positively change the trajectory of Hawaii’s future.”

According to Mike McCartney, director of DBEDT, “International study exchange programs not only contribute to Hawaii’s economic growth but its continued ability to attract foreign students and investments. Hawaii’s appeal as a place that embraces many different cultures remains one of our greatest assets.”

Dennis Ling, administrator for BDSD, which leads the program for international student exchanges, had this to say: “Our department will continue to work with our education partners to attract more foreign students to our classrooms. The findings indicate the fierce competition for international students and that Hawaii must continue its marketing and promotional efforts.”

A total of 41 Hawaii educational institutions responded to the DBEDT 2019 International Education Survey. The responding institutions for the survey reported a total of 14,300 international students, including both long-term students and short-term students, such as those that came to attend English language training programs in calendar year 2018.

Hawaii hosted international students from 128 countries from all over the globe. Japan remains the top country of origin for Hawaii’s international students, followed by South Korea and China.

It’s worth adding that Kauai’s Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami recently returned from a good-will mission to Japan with a small contingent of county officials and elected leaders. While many question the value of such trips, it’s clear from this study that Japan sends many students here, and it does that because of Hawaii’s education, culture and social aspects. Maintaining ties and relationships with Japan has and will benefit Hawaii — inside and outside of the classroom.

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