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Foreign students make an impact on NH's colleges and its economy

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2018 8:20PM

Chatting together on the Southern New Hampshire University Campus on Thursday morning are, from left: incoming senior Emmanuel Audu, who is from Nigeria, and Damayanti Subedi, a senior graduating in December who is from Bhutan. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)



Emmanuel Audu, who is from Nigeria, hoped to earn a college degree close to where his lone American friend lived in Rhode Island.

He chose Southern New Hampshire University partly because it was "cheaper compared to schools in Boston," Audu said last week.

Audu, who once harbored aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player, expects to receive his degree in business administration next spring. He wants to work somewhere in the United States before possibly returning to Nigeria some day.

Bringing home a degree from the United States is "like a gold mine," Audu said during an interview inside SNHU's expansive library last week.

New Hampshire reaped its own financial rewards from hosting more than 4,600 international students during the 2016-17 school year, according to a new report from the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development.

Students from abroad studying in New Hampshire spent $173 million in the United States - mostly in the Granite State - during that span to pay for their education and other expenses, supporting 2,067 jobs.

"The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development is continuing to partner with the NH College and University Council in an effort to position New Hampshire as an education capital for students throughout the United States and the world," Victoria Cimino, the tourism division's director, said in an email.

Her office recently sponsored a college fair in New York that included nine New Hampshire higher-ed institutions.

Foreign students make significant contributions to state's economy, said Dover economist Brian Gottlob.

"You can make a case that any students from outside of New Hampshire have a pretty significant impact because they bring new money into the state, but the impact of international students extends beyond that," Gottlob said. "International students are important to the enrollment and finances of many higher-ed institutions."

Granite State businesses also could tap them for job openings, he said.

According to the report, Dartmouth's international students topped the list with $57.2 million in economic impact and 936 jobs supported.

According to the school's website, Dartmouth enjoys a higher percentage of international students today than 15 years ago. Over the past three school years, the Ivy League institution's percentage of international students has fluctuated between 15 and 16 percent. In 2002, it was 10.3 percent.

Last fall, there were 993 international students among Dartmouth's 6,509 total enrollment.

"There are many factors that influence enrollment in any given year," said Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence.

"At Dartmouth, we believe that engagement with the full human diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences is critical to the strength of the Dartmouth community and the effectiveness of Dartmouth's learning and leadership."

The tourism report said the University of New Hampshire ranked second with $43.2 million in financial impact, followed by SNHU with $37 million supporting 240 jobs.

SNHU, which straddles the Manchester-Hooksett line, counts 726 international students who attend classes on campus, making up nearly a quarter of its on-campus enrollment.

They come from 77 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Malaysia and the Congo.

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Chatting together on the Southern New Hampshire University Campus on Thursday morning are, from left: Damayanti Subedi, a senior graduating in December who is originally from Bhutan, and incoming senior Emmanuel Audu, from Nigeria. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)

Born in Bhutan, 35-year-old Damayanti Subedi spent 12 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before moving to Germany. She has family living in Manchester and will graduate from SNHU in December with an information technology degree.

She shares her life story with classmates, partly to motivate others.

"That has taught me several things in life, and one important lesson was work harder and go toward your goal," Subedi said in the library.

"Never give up," said Subedi, a senator in student government. "It doesn't matter which community you live. You can always contribute back."

SNHU's campus has experienced a building boom, including a new library in 2014 and new dorms now under construction.

"International students are an important part of the SNHU community, but I would not say one specific set of students specifically drives growth on campus," said Lauren Keane, assistant vice president of communications.

Mike Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said a 2015 study showed about 13,000 college and university students in the Manchester area generated $60 million to $70 million in economic activity annually.

"To the extent that attracting international students can help our college and universities continue to grow, the value to the community is very significant given how important of an economic driver higher education is to Manchester," Skelton said.

He said the cultural diversity these students bring benefits residents and students. "In a global economy, it's a huge advantage for our community to be so rich in diversity and culture."

Audu, president of the International Student Association, said his outsider perspective proves perceptive.

"America is like a box," he said. "You can see from outside the box, so many opportunities in America. If you were born here, you may not be able to see (them)."


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