Vietnamese Students Contribute Over $1 Billion to the US Economy

In 2016/17, Vietnamese students enrolled in US colleges and universities contributed $818 million to the US economy, according to the Open Doors 2017 report.  (Source:  US Department of Commerce)  Keep in mind that those data are from fall 2016 and are limited to higher education.

Let’s update and extrapolate using SEVIS data from December 2017.  This includes both higher education and secondary enrollment.  The latter refers to day and boarding schools.  And let’s use the same figure:  $36,456 per student.  

level-of-study-vn-12-17As of the end of 2017, there were 31,389 Vietnamese studying in the US.  Here’s the breakdown for the aforementioned categories:

  • Higher education:  23383 * $36,456 = $852,450,648 (Note:  This includes both undergraduate, graduate students and recent graduates with OPT status, taking into account that a sizable number of currently enrolled students at both levels receive varying levels of scholarship support.  Remember, this is about economic impact not the total amount being paid by Vietnamese parents for their children’s education and living costs in the US.)  
  • English language training:  2681 * $25,000 = $67,025,000  (This is a guesstimate, perhaps on the conservative side.) 
  • Secondary education:  4129 * $36,456 = $150,526,824  (I used the OD number.  This is a reasonable estimate knowing that many boarding schools are in the 40-55k range with day schools costing much less. (Feel free to question these figures, dear reader.  If I err, it is hopefully on the conservative side.)

Drum roll…  The total economic impact of Vietnamese students on the US economy is…   over $1 billion:  $1,070,002,472.  Now THAT’s significant economic impact.

This amount does not include other categories that involve Vietnamese nationals or their Vietnamese sponsors spending money in the US such as other vocational school (36), flight school (121), primary school (141), and other (898).  

The always popular issue of how much Vietnamese parents are spending on their children’s education and living expenses in the US is another matter.  One can assume that it’s a significant percentage of the total economic impact amount. 

Addendum:  The Vietnamese media routinely use the $3 billion figure when talking about how much parents spend on overseas study for their children.  Unlike fine wine, that number is not aging well with the passage of time.  In fact, the actual number is even higher, given the fact that there are more Vietnamese students than even studying abroad, including over 140,000 in the top five host countries alone:  1) Japan; 2) USA; 3) Australia; 4) China; and 5) the UK. 



A Passage to America: University Funding and International Students

Attention US higher education colleagues!  Here’s an interesting research paper about the economic impact of international students at institutions that have taken hits in public funding for the past couple of decades. 

Here are the money sentences:  For the period between 1996 and 2012, we estimate that a 10% reduction in state appropriations is associated with an increase in foreign enrollment of 62% at public research universities and about 6.7% at the resource-intensive AAU public universities. Our results tell a compelling story about the link  between changes in state funding and foreign enrollment in recent years.

International students contributed more than $35 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

You can download a PDF version of this paper.   



Substantial subsidies to public higher education in the United States
have historically allowed in-state students at public colleges and universities to pay markedly lower tuition and fee levels than counterparts who are not state residents. Yet, state appropriations for higher education have declined markedly in recent years. For university leaders facing declines in funding, potential margins for adjustment include raising revenues through increases in tuition levels, reducing resources per student (and potentially quality) by cutting expenditures, or changing the mix of students admitted to include more students paying non-resident tuition. At the same time, with strong economic growth in countries like China and India in recent decades, the pool of students from abroad academically prepared for U.S. colleges and able to pay the tuition charges has increased markedly in the last decade.  In this paper, we examine whether “funding shocks” in state appropriations have led public universities to attract more foreign
students who are able to pay the full fare tuition. For the period between 1996 and 2012, we estimate that a 10% reduction in state appropriations is associated with an increase in foreign enrollment of 62% at public research universities and about 6.7% at the resource-
intensive AAU public universities.Our results tell a compelling story about the link  between changes in-state funding and foreign enrollment in recent years

The Economic Impact of Vietnamese Students on the US

Everyone in the (international education) business can recite by rote the long litany of tangible and intrinsic benefits that accrue from having large numbers of international students study in the US or any country for that matter.  It’s clear, however, that economic impact is becoming increasingly important in the moribund economic climate in higher education and elsewhere in American society. 

In 2010/11, the US hosted a record 723,277 international students, which amounts to 21% of all international students, according to UNESCO.  These students contributed $20.2 billion ($20,232,000,000) to the nation’s economy.  “Education is one of our most valuable exports,” said Francisco Sánchez, under secretary of commerce for international trade, who led an education trade mission last year to Vietnam and Indonesia.  There is a need, perhaps now more than ever, for more international students and all of the contributions, including financial, that they make to US society.  And there is considerable untapped potential.    

The total economic impact of the nearly 15,000 Vietnamese students in 2010/11 was $416 million using information (PDF download) from NAFSA:  Association of International Educators.  This is an extraordinary sum for a country at Vietnam’s stage of development with a GDP of just over $120 billion in 2011.  (In case you’re counting, the estimated amount spent on study in the USA by Vietnamese families last year equaled .35% of the nation’s GDP.) 

Since the above Open Doors statistics include only regionally accredited institutions of higher education and exclude other Vietnamese enrollments (e.g., nationally accredited schools, private boarding schools, most of which are in the 40-50k per year range per year), the total economic impact is considerably higher.