International students spent 25 percent less in the islands last school year compared to the year before, in a concerning development state officials are looking to reverse.
A new state report says more than $225 million was spent in the 2016-2017 school year, compared to $301 million the year prior.
Despite the steep decline, state officials are not surprised.
Fewer international students are coming to Hawaii, the state report found, and they're coming for shorter periods of time.
“The recent decline is part of a global trend for foreign students,” said Luis Salaveria, director of the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism. “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.”
In the 2016-17 school year, foreign students spent an average of $24,100 in Hawaii.
It’s not only expensive, but students and their families now must consider the threat of tougher visa rules under the Trump Administration.
The state report said Hawaii benefits from these international students – who directly contributed $484 million in economic output, $32.5 million in generated state taxes and more than 5,000 supported jobs in the 2016-17 school year.
Some 10,800 international students attended 27 educational institutions across the state in the 2016-17 school year, the state said.
The year before, 12,200 students attended 31 institutions. The state said, however, student counts shouldn't be compared year to year due to the different mix of schools, programs and students.
The international students in Hawaii come from all over the globe. About 30 percent of Hawaii's international students come from Japan. A significant chunk also come from South Korea and China.
Short-term students, including non-degree-seeking students and visiting scholars and teachers, make up 66 percent of Hawaii’s international student population.
“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.”
State officials said there are projects underway to reverse the drop in international student spending.
Dennis Ling, the state’s business development and support division administrator, has plans to continue promoting foreign students by implementing a Study Hawaii Ambassador Program and hosting a press familiarization tour for Asian and European journalists.
“We continue to work with our education partners to attract more foreign students to our classrooms,” Ling said. “Although there was a year over year decline, foreign students studying in Hawaii is very much a significant industry contributing much to our economy.”