If international education is an export, it’s one that a trade war and ramped-up rhetoric on immigration hasn’t touched in Georgia — at least not yet.
Spending by international students on tuition, fees and other expenses in the state jumped 8.2 percent to $808.6 million as Georgia’s 5.9 percent growth in foreign student population outpaced the national average of 1.5 percent, according to the Institute of International Education’s recent Open Doors report.
But the institute warned that while enrollment eclipsed 1 million nationally for the third year in a row, universities this fall are reporting a decline in applications thanks to concerns over the immigration process, perceptions that foreigners aren’t welcome in the U.S., and other factors.
Notwithstanding the educational impact, declines could mean lost jobs for Georgia, which is No. 15 in the nation for hosting foreign students.
Compared to other export markets, education would be the No. 13 destination country for Georgia — ahead of Hong Kong and Belgium and just behind the United Arab Emirates and Brazil. Measured as a product, international education would be Georgia’s No. 6 export, narrowly trailing chicken cuts, which come in at $823 million.
NAFSA, an international education organization, last week released data on the impact of foreign student spending across the United States as part of International Education Week.
In Georgia, spending by 22,789 international students helped create or sustain 10,254 jobs. A breakdown by institution showed that Georgia Tech, unsurprisingly, led the way in terms of job creation by foreign student spending. Its 6,000-plus international students created 2,817 jobs on $182 million in spending.
But further analysis showed Emory University gave Georgia the most bang for the buck: 16 Georgia jobs were created for every $1 million foreign students spent at the private university ($155 million in spending / 2,565 jobs.)
Savannah College of Art and Design, which drove much of Georgia’s overall foreign-student growth this year by attracting 30 percent more students than the previous year, fared less well when it came to job creation. Only 6 jobs were created for every $1 million spent by foreign students at SCAD.
See more analysis on this metric below:
International education was often touted as an area of export growth for Atlanta in an analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Global Cities Initiative over the past few years, which found that the city’s exports were relatively split between goods and services and that Atlanta lagged other U.S. metros in exports as a percentage of economic output. Foreign students and their families also fuel one of Atlanta’s other key sectors: aviation.
Nationally, international students at U.S. colleges and universities contribute $39 billion to the U.S. economy and support 455,622 jobs, according to NAFSA.