Report: International Student Spending Declines in Hawai‘i

July 22, 2017, 1:00 PM HST
* Updated July 22, 10:04 AM
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International students who come to Hawai‘i for higher learning spent roughly $225.3 million in the state during the 2016/17 school year, according to a report released by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s (DBEDT).

The estimate includes total living expenses, tuition and fees, and reflects a 25 percent decline from the 2015/16 school year, when spending by international students was reported at $302 million. The decline reflects a recent nationwide trend of fewer foreign students applying to study in the U.S.

“We continue to promote cross-cultural understanding with international student exchanges to develop a global citizenry that we all desire,” said Gov. David Ige. “We understand the important role that education plays in cultivating the leaders of tomorrow into responsible global citizens.”

“The recent decline is part of a global trend for foreign students, but we will continue to take steps to attract and promote international student exchanges, as they have the potential for future business relationships, which benefit the economy,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria.

Dennis Ling, administrator for DBEDT’s Business Development & Support Division which leads international student efforts in Hawai‘i, added: “We continue to work with our education partners to attract more foreign students to our classrooms. Although there was a year over year decline, foreign students studying in Hawai‘i is very much a significant industry contributing much to our economy.”


According to DBEDT, international students create a total economic impact of:

  • $484 million in total economic output;
  • 5,093 jobs supported by foreign student spending;
  • $32.5 million in state taxes.

Hawai‘i hosts international students from all over the world. Most students come from Japan, followed by S. Korea and China.

According to DBEDT, the decline in foreign students in Hawai‘i during the 2016/17 year is a result of more countries emphasizing in-country education, as well as economic factors and stiffer competition from other nations who are marketing student exchange programs.

DBEDT and a 29-member Hawai‘i consortium of schools have partnered to counter the trend by marketing Hawai‘i to international students. They plan to implement a Study Hawai‘i Ambassador Program to spread the word about schools in Hawai‘i with students who visit and study in the Islands through social media. DBEDT and the consortium will also host a press tour for education journalists from Asia and Europe that highlights Hawai‘i’s educational opportunities for foreign students.

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