As the international student population grows, so does its economic impact.
It is common knowledge that American universities offer an excellent environment for international students to enhance their current skills, acquire new skills and achieve their individual career goals. Yet we often fail to realize the resulting economic value created by these students. Ranging from an increase in the skilled labor force to an inflow of foreign money, international students contribute greatly to the U.S. economy. And with their growing enrollment in higher education institutions over the last decade, statistics support a corresponding growth in economic impact as well.
A Remarkable Impact
The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that international students and their families contributed around $26.8 billion to the U.S. economy during the academic year of 2013-2014. A total of 886,052 international students and their dependents supported 340,000 jobs, according to NAFSA—an 8.5-percent increase in job support and creation, and a nearly 12-percent increase in dollars contributed to the economy compared to the 2012-2013 academic year.
Meanwhile, the State of Illinois has benefited by approximately $1.26 billion in net contributions to the state economy by 42,527 international students and their dependents. In addition, 19,036 jobs were created or supported in 2013-2014. It should be noted that the skills and capabilities of international students strongly support U.S employers, leading to higher household incomes and a better economy.
Bradley’s International Community
Over the last four semesters, beginning in the fall of 2013, more than 350 international students from 39 different countries relocated to Peoria to attend Bradley University. The top 10 countries represented at Bradley include India, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Canada, Czech Republic, Iran, Bangladesh, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. A total of 240 student organizations—including 18 cultural and religious student groups—are available at Bradley, including the Indian Student Association, Muslim Student Association, Sudanese Association and the Chinese Student Association. These groups organize a variety of cultural and educational events to educate and support international students.
Most of the international students at Bradley University are enrolled in graduate or master’s degree programs, and their decision to choose Bradley has been influenced by factors including high-quality education, infrastructure, faculty reputation, friends or family who have previously attended Bradley, better career opportunities and financial support offered by the university.
Through non-academic spending as well as the foreign income they generate while living in Peoria, the international student community has played a pivotal role in the local economy. In addition, enhanced skill sets and multicultural perspectives enable these students to obtain high-paying jobs—not just locally, but nationally and internationally as well. While they face numerous hardships—including being undervalued by some in the community due to lack of awareness and knowledge—these students march on unfazed, contributing as much as they can to the betterment of society.
Adapting to Global Cultural Change
With approximately 5,000 undergraduate and 750 graduate students, Bradley offers the opportunities and choices of a larger university—with over 130 programs in five colleges, plus a graduate school—yet maintains the quality and personal attention of a small private college. Bradley is rich in tradition and full of promise to become one of the nation's finest comprehensive universities.
One of the key needs of students in the 21st century is the ability to adapt to global cultural change. To enhance Bradley University’s cultural and diversity needs, Dr. Jeff Bakken, dean of the graduate school, leads programmatic efforts in admissions, academics and career enhancement by:
- Employing technology to connect, communicate and collaborate to attract high-quality international students;
- Maintaining online, user-friendly systems for the application and admissions process as an integral part of international enrollment management; and
- Supporting student organizations in developing and delivering quality programs in academics as well as the social arena.
Over the last three years, the international student population at Bradley University has more than tripled, from 116 in Fall 2012 to more than 350 in Spring 2015, while student support services has shown increased satisfaction for the past 24 months. This growth in enrollment reflects the broader global trend of increasing numbers of students pursuing higher education outside of their home countries. Bradley's international students will provide a fast track towards diversification of the Peoria labor market, especially in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) areas.
Bradley University has been effective in evolving to connect and communicate with international students. Having partnered with institutions across the globe to share research and engage faculty and student exchange programs, its efforts in diversification and globalization have been very fruitful to the educators, administrators and students, as well as the Peoria community. iBi
Shabeer Amirali is director of marketing, recruitment, student success and partnerships at the Graduate School at Bradley University. He can be reached at (309) 677-3981. Dr. Jeff Bakken is associate provost for research and dean of the Graduate School at Bradley University. He can be reached at (309) 677-2375.