Survey: U.S. benefits from presence of international students

Internationals benefit the economy, plus campus life by bringing diversity, said the majority of 1,500 adults surveyed. But colleges can take action to ensure more recognize the contributions of these students.
By: | August 11, 2020
Photo by Mimi Thian on UnsplashPhoto by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

More than half of Americans, 51%, believe the U.S. benefits from the presence of international students, but a significant number, 37%, have no opinion on the matter, according to a nationwide survey of 1,500 adults conducted over five days and ending August 2. The survey was conducted by One To World, a New York-based nonprofit committed to building bridges between international students and the broader local community.

With nearly 4 in 10 uncertain about the value of this population, “the higher education community has more work to do,” said Sue Henderson, chair of the One To World board of directors and president of New Jersey City University, in a statement. “We need to be more focused on and effective at advocating on behalf of our international students, to the benefit of higher education, American students, and businesses across the country.”

Such efforts may also sway the 11% who said they don’t believe international students provide benefits.

Overall, students from abroad contribute approximately $40 billion to the U.S. economy each year, while creating or supporting more than 450,000 U.S. jobs.

“In addition to the clear economic benefits, international students bring a diversity of thought and cultures to the campuses and communities in which they live and study,” said Jen Clarke, One To World’s executive director.


Also read: International students eager to return, but worry about safety


Respondents aged 55 to 64 were least supportive of international students, while those aged 25 to 34 were most supportive. Women and men were nearly identical in responding favorably, while men were significantly more likely to respond negatively.

Results were also broken out by location, with respondents in the west being the most supportive and those in the south being least supportive.

Elevated health risks connected to travel, closed borders and travel restrictions appear to play little role in Americans’ beliefs on international students being important to the U.S. A similar survey from January 2020 had nearly identical results; in fact, an additional .2% of respondents to that poll said an international student presence is positive.

Full results can be found here.

Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of UB.