International Student Attraction


The State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report today, which analyzes the impact of international students on Hawaii’s economy.

DBEDT’s Research and Economic Analysis Division (READ) created the report, while the Business Development & Support Division (BDSD) leads the state’s efforts for international student exchange.

The Economic Impact of International Students in Hawaii – 2016 Update,” shows direct spending by foreign students in Hawaii was $301.9 million for the 2015/16 school year. This estimate includes the total living expenses, institutional tuition and fees.

“International student exchanges serve as a catalyst for the mutual appreciation of cultures, and the skill and knowledge gained during these experiences are important characteristics in developing global competence in our youth,” said Gov. David Ige. “Cross-cultural understanding contributes to developing a global citizenry that we all desire.”

“The relationships developed by international students while studying in Hawaii honor the diverse heritage of our people, and promote lifelong educational, cultural, and economic interaction with Hawaii,” said Sen. Brian Taniguchi, chair of the Committee on Higher Education and the Arts.

“This report shows how cultural exchanges can benefit our students and economy, and I would love to see more summer programs for foreign students, including English language,” said Sen. Michelle Kidani. “Since there is a high demand for housing needs for foreign students, I will continue ongoing discussions with UH administrators and regents, as well as with the private sector to construct housing on the UH West Oahu campus to meet the needs of our students, teachers and faculty.”

“The total amount of direct spending by international students in Hawaii highlights the value of cross-cultural exchanges and the economic contributions to our state,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “Students from around the world who study in the United States bring international perspectives into our classrooms, and often lead to longer-term business relationships and economic benefits.”

Dennis Ling, administrator for BDSD, which leads the program for international student exchanges added: “The department will continue to work with our education partners to attract more foreign students to our classrooms. We are looking to attract 2,000 additional students to Hawaii by 2018.”

Including the ripple effects, the total economic impact of international students are as follows:

  • $649 million in total economic output, including direct and indirect effects;
  • 7,590 jobs were supported by foreign student spending;
  • $256 million in household earnings was attributed to foreign students;
  • $43 million in state taxes was generated from the foreign students.

The results are based on a survey of Hawaii institutions. The 2016 survey was administered online. The sample frame consisted of 90 educational institutions located in Hawaii and identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). DBEDT received responses from 31 educational institutions in Hawaii, these institutions accounted for 12,194 international students during the 2015/16 academic year.

The economic impacts were calculated based on the responses without weighting to the total participating school population. The economic impact could be higher should all schools respond to the survey.

The average annual spending amount per student across all study programs in Hawaii was $24,760 in 2015/16, including living expenses, tuition and fees.

Hawaii hosted international students from all over the globe. Japan remains the top country of origin for Hawaii’s international students, with 4,297 students studying in Hawaii in 2015/16, or about 40 percent of all of Hawaii’s foreign students. Japan was followed by South Korea with 1,087 students (8.9 percent); Switzerland with 815 students (6.7 percent); China with 737 (6 percent); and Brazil with 335 students (2.7 percent).

The survey results showed Hawaii has ample institutional capacity to host international students. The total capacity for all institutions in Hawaii is approximately 17,000 international students, and the current enrollment is about 72 percent of the capacity.

Please fill out this form to download a copy of the Survey: