The contributions of international students at South Dakota State University are on the rise, and a new report from NAFSA: Association of International Educators quantifies their economic impact for the 2021-22 academic year.
Nearly 600 international students attending SDSU contributed $12.6 million to the local economy and supported 101 jobs in the higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications and health insurance sectors, according to NAFSA’s International Student Economic Value Tool.
That’s the highest impact of any higher education institution in the state, according to NAFSA’s report, which noted that South Dakota’s 1,670 enrolled international students created a financial contribution of $33.4 million supporting 205 jobs statewide in 2021-22.
SDSU has led all South Dakota colleges and universities in attracting international students for two decades. And Jon Stauff, SDSU’s assistant vice president for international affairs, said numbers continue to rebound after COVID-19 first arrived in the United States.
Stauff said there were 632 international students attending SDSU as of this fall, compared to 571 in fall 2021.
“I think we’ve seen exponential growth in the number of applications to the university in each admissions cycle,” he said. “We see more international students applying to universities in the post-pandemic era than they did in the past. Our challenge is making the case that South Dakota State is the place to be.”
International students’ impact isn’t only financial, Stauff noted.
In the past, SDSU’s international students have shared cultures with local elementary schools and participated in programs such as Friendship Families, which had local families befriend an incoming international student. International student organizations and events such as International Night expose other students and community members to different cultures in the form of cuisine, fashion, music, dance and more. And SDSU’s Office of International Affairs hosted its inaugural global achievement awards last February, recognizing 31 individuals and the School of American and Global Studies.
“Having so many nations represented in Brookings—having people from all walks of life and all areas of the world shopping with us, walking our streets, visiting downtown, attending church—adds a vibrancy,” Stauff said. “It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy different cultural experiences and exchanges. Our international students are good neighbors and good citizens, and they’re making really positive contributions to the community.”
The university has also collaborated with the Brookings Multicultural Center to help new international residents get their start in the community, and discussions are underway to continue these activities in the coming year.
Stauff said SDSU’s international profile is maturing to reflect that of a premier land-grant university.
“We’re working more intentionally toward recruiting international students in popular markets like India, southeast Asia and Africa to diversify our enrollment,” Stauff said. “We need to have more research-based partnerships, more enrollment-based partnerships, and more mutually beneficial exchange relationships. Our peer institutions have those, and we need to build our portfolio to reflect what our peers are doing. We’re on that road.”
SDSU students also gain exposure to world cultures through study abroad programs.
After the pandemic brought students back stateside, SDSU saw its first study abroad program go back out again in spring 2022 with about 200 students participating in summer 2022. Numbers are expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels in two to three years.
NAFSA’s International Student Economic Value Tool can be found online at https://www.nafsa.org/isev/reports/state?year=2021&state=SD.