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Studying Up on March Madness

March 28, 2013

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Chris Higginbotham is a Communications Specialist in ITA’s Office of Public Affairs. John Siegmund is an International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Services. 

iStock photo of a university campus

Steve Shepard – iStock photo

When it comes to filling out our NCAA Tournament brackets, we probably all have a lot to learn. While there isn’t necessarily a college course available on that, it’s important to remember that the teams in our brackets represent educational institutions that provide a major source of American exports.

More than 764,000 international students attended higher education institutions in the United States in 2011-2012, representing 3.7 percent of the U.S. student body. Some of those students are (or were) playing on the courts at this year’s NCAA Tournament. California’s women’s team’s Avigiel Cohen is from Israel, Gonzaga’s player-of-the-year candidate Kelly Olynyk is Canadian, and New Mexico State’s eight foreign players are known as the “Foreign Legion.”

International students, whether or not they came here to play basketball, accounted for nearly $23 billion in American exports in 2012.

How can education be considered an export? When a student comes from overseas to study in the United States, that student pays for tuition and fees, books, and all other living expenses. Just like medical services and travel and tourism, education is an export even though it isn’t shipped across a border to a customer.

Top Institutions hosting international students that are represented in the NCAA Tournament

Top institutions hosting international students that are represented in the NCAA Tournament (2011-2012 data from the Institute of International Education)

With 9,269 foreign students, the University of Southern California was ranked number one for hosting students from overseas in 2012. That wasn’t good enough to earn them a seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, but nine of the top 20 higher education students for hosting foreign students are in this year’s men’s tournament.

Education is a huge part of America’s service industry and education exports support tens of thousands of American jobs. The NCAA tournament supports education by giving a portion of the revenue from events like March Madness back to Division I institutions. Each time you attend a game or watch one on TV, you’re supporting exports, you’re supporting jobs, and you’re supporting education.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez discussed the importance of education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this week – not just as an export, but also in its capacity to support tomorrow’s leaders. The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship helps student entrepreneurs create successful businesses that create jobs, and its efforts have brought results: companies founded or co-founded by MIT alumni employ about one million people in Massachusetts.

Don’t forget to keep checking back on our blog as we continue to show how the NCAA Tournament contributes American exports and supports American jobs.

Enjoy the games!

3 comments

  1. I had no idea we have almost 10,000 foreign students in California. That is just baffling and makes me very happy.

    Besides being good for the economy it is also making the education better for the students to get influences from different countries and cultures.

    Way to go!


  2. Jennifer
    10,000 foreign students is an enormous number. But it is important to remain the local students at the same level they are.


  3. NCAA doing a good job for education.



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