CEO Notebook

Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO
Twitter: @shieldsNBOA

The Business Case for International Students

From Net Assets NOW, November 6, 2018. Read past issues of CEO Notebook.

Today is election day, so I would like to add my voice to the bipartisan voices across the country and encourage you to exercise your right to vote!

With today’s midterm elections in mind, anyone paying attention can’t help but know that immigration is a key issue for President Trump and many other candidates on the ballot. That’s why a recent article from the ICEF Monitor, “Attracting Students Who Stay,” caught my attention. ICEF brings together international educators, industry service providers and carefully screened student recruitment agents at networking events around the world. The focus of the article is higher education, but it also helps to make the business case for the true economic impact of international students of all ages.

As the article notes, there is wide understanding that the value international students provide to local and national economies far exceeds the fees they pay for their education. In fact, they infused $15.5 billion into the Canadian economy in 2016, counting tuition, accommodation and personal spending. That type of financial impact is enormous. It’s the type of spend that the United States should be competing for, yet we are becoming a less and less attractive education market for international students. Many other countries, by comparison, aren’t just encouraging international students to enroll in their educational institutions. They’re also enacting policies that encourage these students to remain after they graduate, thereby continuing to contribute to the economic vibrancy of their communities.

Specifically, ICEF identified seven other countries that have a stake in this market. While Canada, the U.K. and Australia have benefited most from the softening international student market in the U.S. (something our boarding school colleagues know very well), you may be surprised by some other countries making a claim to this market.

Consider Ireland, where higher education enrollment jumped more than 30 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17, to 43,600 students. Ireland’s immigration policy also allows masters and PhD graduates to stay in the country up to 24 months to find employment. Or Malaysia, where international student enrollment grew from 135,000 in 2014 to 172,900 in 2016, with a goal of 250,000 students by 2025. Part of Malaysia’s immigration policy? A mobile app that makes applying for a visa easier. Finally, Taiwan adopted a plan to more than double enrollment among South and Southeast Asian students by streamlining visa applications and making it easier for them to apply to work visas after graduating.

In short, international students are good business for independent schools and higher education. They make a positive economic impact on the institutions they choose to attend, and they have the potential to be valuable contributors to their communities long after they graduate. From this perspective, education may be on today’s ballot as much as any state or local candidate. Something to think about.


Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
President and CEO

Jeff has been NBOA's president and CEO since March 2010. Prior to joining NBOA, he spent almost 10 years at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), serving most recently as senior vice president and chief planning officer. An active member of the American Society of Association Executives, Jeff earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation in 2002 and was selected as an ASAE Fellow in 2008. He currently serves as a trustee for One Schoolhouse and Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC.


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