Study touts foreign scholars’ dollars
The state's take rose $15.4 million last year as more students came from overseas to study
STORY SUMMARY »
International students attending Hawaii colleges and universities contributed an estimated $123.8 million to the economy, according to an annual report released today.
But public and private university officials say the estimate is probably low and that international students contribute much more to the state's economy and to its future.
"That's just the tip of the iceberg," said Scott Stensrud, vice president for enrollment management at Hawaii Pacific University. "The numbers quoted here are just the basic cost. The trickle-down effect is huge."
The Open Doors 2007 report estimates there were 6,032 students from other countries studying in Hawaii in the 2006-2007 academic year, a 6 percent increase from the previous year.
The report is prepared annually by the Institute of International Education with support from the U.S. State Department.
Nationally, the number of international students increased by 3 percent to an estimated 582,984, the first significant increase since the 2001-2002 academic year.
International students are attracted to Hawaii because it is considered safe and "Hawaii is a very welcoming place and a place where people feel comfortable, not only on campus but in the community as well," Stensrud said.
FULL STORY »
A new report released today suggests Hawaii is not just a vacation destination for people from other countries: It also attracts international students who boost the economy.
The annual Open Doors 2007 report says international students attending Hawaii colleges and universities last year contributed $123.8 million to Hawaii's economy, up from an estimated $108.4 million in the 2005-2006 academic year.
Scott Stensrud, vice president for enrollment management at Hawaii Pacific University, said the estimate is low and does not account for money spent when parents and friends travel to Hawaii for graduation ceremonies. In addition, students often return after graduation as tourists, he said.
In a globalized society, Hawaii students also benefit from interaction with international students, Stensrud said.
"It puts them in contact with students that will later on be business contacts or government contacts as they rise in their careers," he said.
Understanding other countries and people is becoming increasingly important, he said.
But while the state is seeing an increase in the number of students from other countries seeking international education here, the report also shows Hawaii students do not seem to be taking full advantage of programs offered by local colleges to go abroad.
Only 648 Hawaii students were studying in overseas education programs last year, down from 697 in 2005.
"I think that's a respectable number, given the population of Hawaii and given the financial constraints of some of the students," Stensrud said.
Jenny Samaan, director of the Office of International Education for the University of Hawaii system, said the university has to do more to let students know about the opportunities and scholarships available to them to travel abroad.
In international student enrollment, community colleges are seeing the biggest growth, especially at Kapiolani Community College and Maui Community College, she said.
Those students now going through community college would be able to easily transfer to UH-Manoa, UH-Hilo or the new campus at UH-West Oahu in a few years, she noted.
Japan sends the most students to Hawaii, followed by South Korea and Taiwan. Nationally, most international students are from India, followed by China and South Korea.
Samaan said she is working with the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to conduct a study of the economic impact of foreign students in Hawaii.
"It's a very important sector in our economy, and it's one that has not been well understood," she said.