Coronavirus may cost US $4.5B because of international student decline: NAFSA

International students are not enrolling in American colleges like they were before COVID-19

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The coronavirus pandemic will make the U.S. lose more than $4.5 billion from foreign college students, according to a survey conducted in April, according to the NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

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"With travel restrictions, visa delays, and economic instability worldwide, COVID-19 has been incredibly harmful to the field of international education," said Esther D. Brimmer, the executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. "We need Congress to support legislation protecting international education to save American jobs and ensure U.S. students remain globally competitive at a time where we cannot afford to lose our competitive edge."

So far, the U.S. has potentially lost nearly $1 billion from shortened or canceled study abroad programs where international students, scholars, faculty and staff traditionally spent around $638 million, NAFSA reports. Moreover, the education nonprofit estimates U.S. colleges will lose at least $3 billion for fall 2020 from the decreased enrollment of international students – who typically pay full tuition.

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Seventy-eight percent of international students told NAFSA they will not enroll in U.S. colleges this fall due to the pandemic.

For international students who remained on campuses throughout the country, 38 percent of respondents indicated they needed ongoing support, which NAFSA estimates are equivalent to $418.5 million in total spending.

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Additionally, 77 percent of employed international scholars indicated they need ongoing support and employment during the crisis.

Forty-one percent of respondents reported experiencing negative financial impacts, such as loss of grants and contracts, compensation and shifts to online instruction.

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With billions of dollars lost, NAFSA says tens of thousands of American jobs will likely be eliminated if congressional action or financial relief cannot be provided. Potential impacts could include reduced hours, furloughs, eliminated positions, hiring freezes and salary reductions

The organization – which has more than 10,000 members – has prepared requests it will send out to Congress to change current existing policies, including the waiver of in-person interview requirements for visas and direct financial assistance totaling $46.6 billion for housing, scholarships, food, rent, airfare and tuition refunds and more.

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