Foreign student spending at Georgia universities jumped 9 percent to $545 million during the 2012-13 school year, illustrating the continued importance of higher education as an export product for the state.
Education outpaces the state’s exports to many countries including France and India. Compared with commodities, its export value eclipses that of kaolin clay and is nearly double that of peanuts.
The multiplier effect of this spending is likely much higher, as figures in the Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education only include direct expenses like tuition and housing, not additional expenditures like coffee, clothes, in-country travel or tourism related to parental visits.
With 66 universities in the metro area, education and health services account for 12 percent of Atlanta’s employment mix. Foreign students also contribute to diversity and global competency, while providing a potential pool of internationally experienced labor. A shortage of cross-cultural skills is one of the main concerns for large companies based here, accord to a market assessment of Atlanta’s export mix by the Brookings Institution.
Across the nation, international student spending contributed $27 billion to the U.S. economy.
President Barack Obama announced on his recent trip to Asia that the U.S. and China had reached a reciprocal agreement that could extend visas from one year to five years depending on the program length, eliminating the need for students to renew visas annually. That would make it easier for them to travel home during the holidays. Nearly one-third of international students in the U.S. are from mainland China.