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By Kim Tremblay, Associate Attorney

As summer comes to a close, millions of students across the United States are returning to school. In the current popular and political discourse, foreign students lawfully present in the United States to pursue their studies are rarely mentioned. Last year, the Department of State issued about half a million F-1 student visas to students coming to the United States from abroad. This number does not include scholars and students coming to the United States on J-1 exchange visitor visas. Students migrate from every corner of the globe to study in our schools; the majority, over 150,000 students, are Chinese nationals.

These students gain many benefits from studying in the United States, such as a good education or a different cultural or educational perspective. However, Americans are the true beneficiaries of these foreign students’ presence in our schools. Foreign students bring a global perspective to the classroom and expose local students to new ideas. They pay out-of-state tuition, helping maintain programs at Universities, many of which face increasing financial struggles.

Surely surprising to many people, these students inject billions of dollars annually into the U.S. economy. According to NAFSA, an association of international educators, they spend over 20 billion dollars every year. They pay tuition and fees to Universities, but they and their families also contribute to local economies through their living expenses. For example, during the 2010-2011 school year, there were 7,688 foreign students living in Colorado. They spent over $235,000,000 in Colorado that year alone in contributions to both their schools and adopted communities.

The above-mentioned facts, along with the issue of retaining foreign talent after graduation, represent yet another topic that should be considered in our national dialogue regarding immigration reform.

See http://www.nafsa.org/_/File/_/eis2011/Colorado.pdf

See http://travel.state.gov/visa/statistics/graphs/graphs_4399.html

See http://www.travel.state.gov/pdf/FY11AnnualReport-Table{b6b8f04f7bd4b863c4cfed8339fd19419bda3e071c79bc5ac8c810cb9c52e30f}20XVII.pdf

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