International students have a $545 million impact annually on the economy of Virginia.
On a recent recruiting trip to Madrid, Spain, Longwood’s Director of International Admissions and International Student/Scholar Services Patti Trent was approached by a young student who asked a strange question: whether Longwood’s campus has orange and yellow leaves in the fall.

“I said absolutely we do,” said Trent, “and pulled out our viewbook that’s full of photos of our beautiful campus. She got very animated and started asking questions about our location, majors available, and then asked to be on our mailing list.”

The lesson: Every student — especially international students — is looking for the right fit in a college. The broad array of higher education options in Virginia, complemented by that fall foliage, means the state often has exactly what students and parents are looking for.

Longwood this year led the launch of a statewide consortium, Study Virginia, to promote Virginia as a destination for higher education abroad. Study Virginia members will pool resources to identify common strengths and grow the pool of higher education applicants to Virginia colleges and universities.

“There’s a real opportunity here for Virginia to promote itself as the premier destination for higher education for international students,” said Molly McSweeney, Longwood’s assistant director of international admissions and recruitment and chair of Study Virginia. “Our state is positioned to serve a wide swath of international students with diverse expectations.

“All colleges and universities in Virginia have made significant investments in recruiting international students. As partners in Study Virginia, we act more as allies than competitors, strengthening all options in the state with one point of contact and unified messaging,” she said.

Study Virginia is working with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service to identify opportunities to recruit foreign students through trade missions, international partnerships and marketing campaigns.

“It’s easy to think that international students naturally flock to the United States because we have the world’s top education system,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Domestic Operations Antwaun Griffin, who manages U.S.-based Commercial Service offices. “There is actually a lot of work universities need to do to recruit and admit foreign students, and then to bring them here. Our team is proud to support universities on these efforts, which in turn benefit the U.S. economy.”

Economically, international students make a $545 million impact annually on the Virginia economy and contribute significantly to colleges’ financial health. Nationally, the impact is even greater: $30 billion a year.

“The 18,000 international students studying in Virginia are putting more than 7,000 Virginians to work,” said McSweeney. “That’s a huge economic impact for the state.”

Trent recalls a recruiting trip to Vietnam that was in many ways typical. Several students inquired about snowfall, and some placed an emphasis on being near communities of Vietnamese immigrants. Parents had other concerns.

“Several parents expressed a lot of interest in ... a college in a smaller town with a good safety record,” said Trent. “Longwood fits that bill. For others who want more of an urban campus, it’s great that through Study Virginia we can point them to somewhere nearby, which benefits the state as a whole, instead of offering no other option.”

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