International Students Contributed $498 Million to Hawai‘i’s Economy

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The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, which analyzes the impact of international students on Hawai‘i’s economy.

Click to view study.

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

“The Economic Impact of International Students in Hawai‘i – 2018 Update,” shows the direct spending by foreign students in Hawai‘i was $241.5 million for the calendar year 2017. This estimate includes the total living expenses and institutional tuition and fees.

“International students in Hawai‘i are an important part of our economy,” stated DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “Students from around the world bring international perspectives into our classrooms, and often lead to longer-term business relationships and economic benefits.”


Dennis Ling, administrator of BDSD, which leads the program for international student exchanges added: “While nationwide, the overall number of international students studying in the U.S. declined, Hawai‘i’s numbers are holding steady thanks to our continued marketing. The department will continue to work with our education partners to attract more foreign students to our classrooms.”

The Study Hawai‘i consortium of 31 schools in Hawai‘i is the association promoting the industry and actively recruiting international students.

“Our members share a belief that increasing the flow of international students benefits our state and our communities socially, culturally and economically, and positions Hawai‘i as a preeminent nexus between the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” said Joel Weaver, president of the consortium. “We are pleased that this latest survey demonstrates the considerable financial impact of the international education industry in Hawai‘i. We look forward to continuing to partner with DBEDT to increase these benefits in the coming years.”


A total of 34 Hawai‘i educational institutions responded to DBEDT’s 2018 International Education Survey. The responding institutions for the survey reported a total of 12,916 international students, including both long-term students and short-term students, such as those that came to attend English language training programs in calendar year 2017.

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

  • $497.5 million in economic output generated, including direct, indirect, and induced effects;
  • $38.2 million in state taxes generated;
  • $219.8 million in household income generated;
  • 5,264 jobs supported by international student spending.

Hawai‘i hosted international students from all over the globe. Japan remains the top country of origin for Hawai‘i’s international students, followed by the Republic of Korea and China.


Nationwide, foreign student enrollment declined in the most recent survey. Hawai‘i’s numbers, however, show an increase since the last report for 2016.

You can view the report here.

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