Sending Office: Honorable Colleen Hanabusa
Sent By:

        Request for Signature(s)

Co-Sign Letter: Urge Secretary Ross to Maintain U.S. Commercial Service’s Support for International Education

Dear Colleague:

Last December, the Department of Commerce received a letter co-signed by educators representing the state study consortia for California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Texas amidst allegations that the U.S. Commercial Service had
been directed to reduce its support for international education.  An
from The PIE News on January 22, 2018, discussed these allegations and the efforts of the state study consortia to lobby the Department of Commerce.

As you may know, the Commercial Service plays a critical role in supporting education service exports by helping American educational institutions set up promotional events and institutional partnerships abroad.  Education service exports are a valuable
part of our economy and remain one of the few industries in which the United States enjoys a substantial trade surplus.  International students enrich our classrooms with their diverse backgrounds, contribute to research, and often stay in the United States
to contribute to our economy.  At a time when other countries are ramping up their efforts to attract more international students, we should not be surrendering our leadership of this valuable global market.

I hope that you will join me in this letter urging Secretary Ross to maintain the Department of Commerce’s valuable support for international education.

The full letter is below. If you have questions or wish to sign on, please email Ben Chao at  The deadline to sign on is COB on Friday, February 16.




Member of Congress



February XX, 2018

The Honorable Wilbur Ross

Secretary of Commerce

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Ave NW

Washington, DC 20230


Dear Secretary Ross:

We write to express our concerns with allegations that the U.S. Commercial Service has been directed to reduce its support for international education.  It is our hope that the Department of Commerce can clarify its position and reaffirm its longstanding
commitment to assist American academic institutions in bringing talented international students to their classrooms. 

In a letter dated December 14, 2017 to Mr. Israel Hernandez, your former deputy chief of staff performing the duties of Under Secretary for International Trade, Dr. Jing Luan of Study California expressed his concerns with reports that the U.S. Commercial
Service was directed to remove education from its strategic vision and reduce its support for international education.  Dr. Luan’s letter was co-signed by the state study consortia of Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Texas, demonstrating
widespread concerns from education professionals and administrators across the country. 

Any policy limiting or ending the U.S. Commercial Service’s support for education service exports would be damaging for American educational institutions and our economy.  The U.S. Commercial Service plays a critical and irreplaceable role in supporting
international education in the United States.  With over 100 offices located in over 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service and its team of education specialists provide global reach in assisting American educational institutions with international market
research, recruitment fairs, webinars, virtual education events, institutional partnerships through the Gold Key Matching Service, and school promotion.

Due to close collaborative partnerships between the federal government and college recruiters, education service exports are a key component of the U.S. economy.  According to the U.S. Commercial Service, education, one of the few industries in which the
U.S. enjoys a substantial trade surplus, ranked seventh among service exports in 2015.  There were over a million international students in the United States in 2015, contributing over $35.7 billion to our economy in tuition and living expenses that year.[1] 
Another estimate suggests that the direct economic benefit of international students tops $50 billion a year.[2]  According to an analysis by NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, international
students created or supported over 450,000 jobs in the U.S. economy during the 2016-2017 academic year.[3] 

The benefits brought by international students to the United States extend more broadly throughout our society.  The higher tuitions paid by international students subsidize the costs of college education for Americans.  International students bring diverse
perspectives into our classrooms, preparing American students for global careers, and participate in valuable scientific and technical research.  Following graduation, many international students choose to stay and contribute to the American economy: nearly
one-quarter of U.S. startup companies valued at $1 billion or more had a founder who first began as an international student in the U.S.[4]

International education is a growing part of the global economy.  In 2000, there were just 2.1 million international students in the world.  Today, there are over 5 million.  The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that
there will be over 8 million international students by 2025.[5]  However, in 2001, the United States hosted 28 percent of all international students in the world; by 2016, that number declined to 22 percent. 
Recognizing the significant benefits that international students bring to their economies and societies, other countries such as Australia, Canada, China, and Russia have set ambitious targets and enacted policies to attract more students.  These countries
know that international education is an effective way of improving their economies, attracting foreign talent, and increasing their soft power abroad.

We therefore request clarification of the Department’s policies towards international education and urge you to affirm and maintain the Department’s longstanding support for international education through the U.S. Commercial Service.  International students
strengthen our economy, further our scientific and technological innovation, and enrich American classrooms.  Upholding the U.S. Commercial Service’s valuable assistance to American academic institutions would perpetuate these valuable benefits. 

We look forward to your response and appreciate your consideration of this important issue. 




Colleen Hanabusa

Member of Congress


[1] U.S. Commercial Service,
Education and Training Services Resource Guide: A Reference for U.S. Institutions, 2017 edition, U.S. Department of Commerce.

[2] Dick Startz, “Sealing the border could block one of America’s crucial exports: Education,” The Brookings Institution, 31 January 2017, accessed from:

[3] “NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool,” NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, accessed from:

[4] “Research: Immigrants Started More Than Half of America’s Billion Dollar Startup Companies,” National Foundation for American Policy, 17 March 2016, accessed from:

[5] 2016 Top Markets Report: Education, International Trade Administration, May 2016, accessed from:

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