International students are getting 8,200 jobs in Georgia as enrollments recover to pre-pandemic levels

More than 25,000 international students have enrolled Georgia Universities in the 2021-22 school year, a record number that marked a return to pre-pandemic highs, although their spending fell slightly from the 2019 peak.

These students, the majority of them dating China and India and the pursuit of STEM disciplines, spent nearly $835 million on tuition that year and restored international education to its place as the leading “export” of services for the state.

It was a remarkable recovery after a dramatic decline. During the 2020-21 fall and spring semester, which coincided with the worst of the pandemic, Georgia enrollment fell 11.3 percent to 21,515 students while spending collapsed more than 20 percent to $662 million.

This year, China, which consistently accounts for about a third of all foreign students in the US and Georgia, has seen declines at both levels. Their share of Georgia’s total enrollment fell from 33 percent to 30.3 percent, while India’s share rose to 22.1 percent from 18.6 percent. Rounded out the top 5 seconding nations for Georgia South Korea (7 percent), which remained remarkably stable at number 3, as well as Nigeria (2.8 percent of the total) and Taiwan (2.1 percent) who pushed Vietnam from the top 5.

Georgia broadly followed national numbers, though across the country Chinese student enrollments fell even more dramatically amid COVID-19 lockdowns, heightened geopolitical rivalry and efforts at some universities to diversify from what some saw as a dangerously volatile revenue stream. In the US, Chinese student enrollments fell 8.6 percent to 290,086, the first time the number has fallen below 300,000 since 2014. Meanwhile, Indian enrollments rose 18.9 percent to 199,182. The two most populous countries in the world accounted for 52.4 percent of all international students in the United States. South Korea landed a distant third place with 40,755.

Here in Atlanta georgia tech seems to have been one of the main beneficiaries of returning international students. While the state’s top five receiving universities all saw notable increases, the total number of tech universities increased by 42 percent in one year to 8,040 students. That’s also 20 percent more than enrollments in the year that began before the pandemic in fall 2019.

Georgia State University had the next highest percentage jump with 17.6 percent growth and cracked the 3,000-student mark for the first time.

Corresponding NAFSA: Association of International Educatorsthis influx led to the Creation of 8,276 jobs across Georgiawith more than half coming from three schools: Georgia Tech ($209.4 million for 2,526 jobs), Savannah College of Art and Design ($204.9 million to support 1,114 jobs) and Emory University ($149.7 million for 1,963 jobs).

NAFSA calculates that one in three college students creates employment through spending on tuition, housing, food, retail, transportation and other sectors. In the United States, international students contribute $33.8 billion and support 335,423 jobs, the organization says.

If higher education represented a country, it almost cracked the state’s top 10 export markets in 2021, just behind the $860 million worth of goods Georgia sold to South Korea.

Only 632 Georgians studied abroad in 2020-21, down from 3,185 in 2019-20.