International Students Contributed $381 Million to Hawaii’s Economy in 2019

Posted on Nov 6, 2020 in News

For Immediate Release: November 6, 2020

HONOLULU—The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) issued The Economic Impact of International Students in Hawaii: Calendar Year 2019 report produced by DBEDT’s Research and Economic Analysis Division (READ), in collaboration with the department’s Business Development and Support Division (BDSD) and the Study Hawaii Educational Consortium. Estimates in this report were based on the Hawaii International Education Survey (IES) conducted during the months of May-September 2020 which covered data for calendar year 2019. The data does not reflect the economic impact of international students due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2019 direct spending of international students in the State of Hawaii was an estimated $185 million. This amount included tuition and fees plus living expenses. Based on this direct impact, the economic impacts of international student expenditures for calendar year 2019 were as follows:

  • $381.2 million in economic output generated, including direct, indirect, and induced effects;
  • $29.2 million in state taxes generated;
  • $168.4 million in household income generated; and
  • 3,756 jobs supported by international student spending.

The overall average annual per student spending was $13,838, including living expenses and tuition and fees across all programs, for calendar year 2019. The state’s public higher education system, the University of Hawaii 10-campus system, accounted for about 45.5% of the direct spending and total economic output generated by international students attending schools in Hawaii.

“International students have positively contributed to Hawaii and our economy for many years,” stated DBEDT Director Mike McCartney. “They have helped to expand our marketing and promotion efforts to reinforce the message that Hawaii is a place where the world comes to learn. In 2019 these students brought an international perspective to our communities as well as spending, tax revenue and jobs to our state. The growth of this industry sector is one of the strategic initiatives we intend to pursue for the state’s economic diversification and expansion.”

“While the COVID pandemic has added a pause to travel to Hawaii, we are confident that international students will continue to seek educational opportunities in the state in the near future”, said Dennis Ling, administrator of BDSD. “Our department hopes to continue its efforts to attract international students to the state once the pandemic is controlled.”

The 2020 IES received responses from 44 of Hawaii’s educational institutions, covering data for the 2019 calendar year. The responding institutions for the current survey represented 13,371 international students.

The report is available at

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About the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT)
DBEDT is Hawaii’s resource center for economic and statistical data, business development opportunities, energy and conservation information, and foreign trade advantages. DBEDT’s mission is to achieve a Hawaii economy that embraces innovation and is globally competitive, dynamic and productive, providing opportunities for all Hawaii’s citizens. Through its attached agencies, the department fosters planned community development, creates affordable workforce housing units in high-quality living environments, and promotes innovation sector job growth.

Media Contact:
Dr. Eugene Tian
Research and Economic Analysis Division
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
(808) 586-2470

Charlene Chan
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
(808) 824-0134