As the local, state and national economy struggles amid the current recessionary climate, a pair of recent surveys reveal that international students attending American universities are providing those economies a welcome boost.
The recently published Open Doors 2009 report from the Institute of International Education found that international students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo generated more than $5 million for the Big Island economy during the 2008-2009 academic year.
The same survey determined spending by international students nationwide during that period totaled $17.6 billion.
A second statewide survey conducted by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) and NAFSA: The Association of International Educators Hawaii-Pacific District showed international students and their dependants spent $160 million in Hawaii during the 2008-2009 academic year.
The survey found 13,124 students from overseas studied in Hawaii during that period. The top five countries of origin were Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, in that order.
“The island and state of Hawaii benefit from the continuing strength of the Asian economies,” said NAFSA Hawaii Chairman Darrell Kicker. “Hawaii’s big advantage is its location geographically, ethnically and culturally in the center of the Asian-Pacific region between the world’s two largest economies (U.S. and Japan) and the world’s fastest growing economy (China). These advantages need to be leveraged through increased global outreach.”
Hilo and the University of Hawaii at Hilo are well-positioned to benefit from the influx of international students.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has identified UH Hilo as one of the most desirable destinations for international students. The publication recently listed the University as the eighth most popular destination for international students among American four-year baccalaureate colleges during the 2008-2009 academic year. During that year, 9 percent of the total enrollment at UH Hilo consisted of students from other countries.
Chancellor Rose Tseng says international students contribute to the community and campus both economically and academically.
“We know that having international students at UH Hilo benefits the local economy since they live in Hilo and participate in the community, but we also need international students to help make our own students competitive in the global economy,” Tseng said. “Students with a global perspective can compete more effectively in the interdependent, modern global economy.”
UH Hilo has also embarked on a new effort to attract more students from The Peoples Republic of China.
The Sino-American 1+2+1 Dual-Degree Program, co-sponsored by the China Center for International Educational Exchange (CCIEE) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), will bring students from Chinese universities to selected American colleges to complete a dual-degree program.
This year UH Hilo, the only university in Hawaii participating in the program, and one of just 17 nationwide, accepted its first four students, who will spend two to three years in Hilo then return to their home university for a final year to graduate with university degrees from the United States and China.
The program, now in its 10th year, is already responsible for more than 700 graduates, many of whom are now pursuing graduate degrees from American universities.
Beyond the economic boost, international student programs provide educational opportunities for local students. Exchange students who study in Hilo for one or two semesters are growing in number with more than 70 attending UH Hilo during the 2009-2010 academic year.
They come from countries as diverse as Germany, Italy, Scotland, Norway, Poland, Taiwan, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.
These exchanges enable UH Hilo students to study abroad, with more than 50 planning to do so in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
UH Hilo Director of Global Exchange Todd Shumway said the exchanges are the result of a growing effort to increase global awareness among American students by strengthening language and inter-cultural skills.