Maui Business

Study Shows International Students Contributed Millions to Hawaiʻiʻs Economy

December 2, 2018, 4:22 PM HST
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The state department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report on Thursday that analyzes the impact that international students have on Hawaii’s economy.  DBEDT’s Research and Economic Analysis Division (READ) prepared the report, while the Business Development & Support Division (BDSD) led the state’s efforts for international student exchange.

The report, or The Economic Impact of International Students in Hawaiʻi – 2018 Update, shows international studentsʻ direct spending in Hawaiʻi totaled to $241.5 million in 2017. This estimate includes living expenses and institutional tuition and fees.

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

A total of 34 Hawaiʻi educational institutions participated in 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 who came to attend English language training programs in 2017.

“While nationwide, the overall number of international students studying in the US declined, Hawaii’s numbers are holding steady thanks to our continued marketing,” BDSD administrator Dennis Ling said. “The department will continue to work with our education partners to attract more foreign students to our classrooms.”


The Study Hawaiʻi consortium of 31 schools in Hawaiʻi is the association promoting the industry and 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 Hawaiʻi as a preeminent nexus between the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” consortium president Joel Weaver said.  “We are pleased that this latest survey demonstrates the considerable financial impact of the international education industry in Hawaiʻi.  We look forward to continuing to partner with DBEDT to increase these benefits in the coming years.”

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.

Hawaiʻi hosted international students from across the globe. Japan remains the top country of origin for Hawaiʻi’s international students, followed by the Republic of Korea and China. Nationwide, foreign student enrollment declined in the most recent survey, yet Hawaiʻi’s numbers show an increase since the last report for 2016.  


The report is available online.  

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