Missouri Policy Journal


Tens of thousands of international students have studied at Missouri’s colleges and universities, making invalua-ble academic and cultural contributions to campus and community life. Perhaps less well-known have been the significant contributions that international students have also made to state and local economies. In recent years, the number of international students studying in Missouri has been on the decline (a trend that pre-dates the pandemic), and as a result local economies have potentially lost out on millions of dollars in revenue. The focus of this paper is first to explore the changing enrollment trends of international students in Missouri leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on economies and jobs. Next, we present descriptive data on where Missouri’s international students participating in the post-graduation work-experience program known as Op-tional Practical Training (OPT) have worked statewide. We then look at the ways in which colleges and univer-sities have promoted international student employment through an analysis of schools’ international admissions and recruitment materials. Our research suggests opportunities for schools and localities to work together strate-gically to attract would-be students—and to cultivate and retain would-be employees. We propose that schools should encourage and facilitate wider participation in practical training within Missouri by better leveraging their respective geographic advantages vis-a-vis proximity to labor markets, which in turn can provide a competitive advantage in admissions efforts.



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