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Report: Immigrants who come to U.S. for education contribute billions to economy

When people come to the U.S., it's not only because they want to send money home to their families. They often want to take advantage of its extraordinary educational system, as few countries devote more financial resources to helping its students learn than the U.S does.

Fortunately, more legislators are realizing this, and as a result, making in-state tuition benefits available to undocumented immigrants. This action has not been without its critics, however, saying that it puts too much of a strain on the educational system.

But as a recent report shows, foreign students do wonders for the U.S. economy, contributing billions of dollars to the country's financial well-being each year.

According to a recent analysis conducted by the NAFSA: Association of International Educators, students who attended university in the 2011-2012 academic year contributed nearly $22 billion to the U.S. economy.

To break this figure down further, the funds contributed were chiefly from tuition and fees, comprising nearly $16 billion of the $21.8 billion total. Another $400 million, approximately, resulted from room and board and other living expenses.

What is particularly striking is that the $22 billion figure is a "conservative" estimate. In other words, NAFSA based it off of statistics collected from several different organizations that aren't official, such as the Wintergreen Orchard House, the Institute of International Education as well as data from Indiana University's Jason Baumgartner. He serves as the university's director for information services.

Most tuition income from immigrants spent in California
Something else that was worthy of note is where these funds came from. Not surprisingly, much of it was from California, which has the largest immigrant population in the country at 10.1 million, according to statistics from the Immigration Policy Center. Foreign student spending from the Golden State totaled $3.2 billion, followed by New York at $2.6 billion, Massachusetts at $1.5 billion, Texas at $1.4 billion and Pennsylvania at $1.1 billion rounded out the top five.

Unfortunately, some state legislators have taken it upon themselves to try and prevent immigrants from receiving the types of benefits that other Americans have. In fact, a Kansas lawmaker has filed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama's administration, saying that their policies are somehow preventing them from doing their jobs.

Massachusetts latest state to give tuition breaks to immigrants
Meanwhile, other lawmakers have made embracing immigrants a top priority. Recently, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick sent a letter to the Bay State's Board of Higher Education, directing it to revise its policy regarding undocumented immigrants and whether they're eligible to receive in-state tuition breaks.

One of the reasons why Patrick may have been in favor of changing the policy may stem from the NAFSA study, as it clearly shows that immigrants who attend university in the U.S. contribute to the U.S. economy. Massachusetts has a considerable number of immigrants that live within state borders. IPC says the Bay State is home to nearly 984,000 immigrants nearly 50 percent of whom have gone through the naturalization process.

So far, 12 states allow unauthorized immigrants to attend school with the in-state tuition discount. Though Florida law hasn't adopted this stance, they may at some point in the future, as a significant portion of the state's population is comprised of immigrants, totaling 3.6 million people.

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