Now, more than ever, Colorado needs international students
Colorado reaps significant benefits from opening our doors to international students, scholars and researchers. They contribute to Colorado’s economy; support public and private sector research; bring diversity and global perspectives to our classrooms; and become life-long ambassadors for Colorado and the United States when they return to their home countries. Now, more than ever, Colorado must openly and fully support these students and make sure they know that we value their contributions to our campuses and communities.
Over the past several weeks, educational institutions across the United States combined their efforts to push back against a Department of Homeland Security policy change that would have put those students’ academic futures in jeopardy, requiring a nearly immediate departure from the United States if institutions were forced to go to remote instruction. This rule would have stymied decades of success by Colorado colleges, universities and English language providers to make Colorado a preferred destination for study and provide global talent to our workforce. While institutions celebrated a small victory when the rule was reversed, international students still face many uncertainties and obstacles; among them, new, incoming freshmen will not be allowed to come to the United States if their programs are fully online.
Students from around the world bring fresh ideas and cultural diversity to the state. Their presence results in hundreds of millions of dollars to Colorado’s economy. International students studying at our institutions contributed close to $500 million to Colorado’s economy last year, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. That figure puts education among our top exports as a state and significantly adds to Denver International Airport’s traffic volume.
Colorado’s research laboratories — at the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines and other institutions — are filled with top researchers from all over the world. They are contributing to impactful innovations in such areas as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, revolutionary zero-energy cooling systems for buildings, sustainable water usage and — yes — a vaccine for COVID-19. The University of Colorado Boulder alone garnered $631 million in research awards in 2018–19. With 15% of its research faculty from overseas, the contribution to our state’s economy is significant.
Colorado’s institutions of higher education are well advised to continue to make our state a welcoming place for students and scholars to come, learn and contribute. Similarly, our communities must continue to embrace students from all over the world as their own and ensure they feel welcome and appreciated.
We support programs that enable students of all backgrounds to study abroad and thereby prepare our students for global careers. We thank our higher education institutions for all they are doing in these challenging times, and we thank our state and federal policymakers for keeping our best interests at the forefront.
We call for student visas to be prioritized once the U.S. begins issuing visas again. We need to ensure that the best minds in the world can contribute to our research and economy. Therefore, we oppose restrictions on student and exchange visas and any restrictions on work opportunities through Optional Practical Training.
Now, more than ever, Colorado must remain the globally minded and locally friendly state we all know so well.
The advisory board to StudyColorado, an initiative of the state, the institutions of higher education and the business community that supports Colorado’s international education goals. See list of members at studycolorado.org.