Las Vegas retains high percentage of foreign college grads

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas ranks relatively low among major U.S. metropolitan areas in the number of foreign students who pursue college degrees locally but has one of the nation's highest rates of retaining those students once they graduate, the Brookings Institution reported Thursday night.

The think tank, based in Washington, D.C., found in a study of data from 2008 through 2012 that 66.9 percent of foreign students who pursued at least a bachelor's degree in Las Vegas found employment under a student visa program. That was the fifth highest percentage among 118 metro areas that each had at least 1,500 foreign students during the four-year period.

Las Vegas had 2,850 F-1 student visa holders during those years, but that was only 78th highest among the major metros. Las Vegas also ranked only 87th with 15.4 foreigners per 1,000 higher education students.

Brookings also reported that only 12.1 percent of the foreign students in Las Vegas pursued a degree in science, technology, engineering or math, the so-called STEM subjects. That percentage ranked 115th out of the 118 metros.

The countries that produced the highest numbers of foreign students who studied in Las Vegas were South Korea (936 students), China (469), Singapore (263), India (173) and Japan (165).

Roughly 77 percent of the foreign students pursued bachelor's degrees, 16.3 percent studied in master's programs and 6.7 percent sought doctorates.

The Brookings study found that foreign students contributed $21.8 billion in tuition and $12.8 billion in living costs to the 118 metro areas during the four-year period. The Las Vegas share was nearly $48 million in tuition and $41.2 million in living costs.

"Foreign students are a significant source of earnings for U.S. metro economies in several ways," said Brookings associate fellow Neil Ruiz, author of the report. "First, they open up markets in their home cities which facilitates trade, foreign direct investment and knowledge transfer. In addition, they infuse revenue into local communities, and they help fill demand for jobs requiring specific skills in local labor markets. Our business and community leaders need to develop better strategies that retain their talents after they graduate." 

Foreign students with STEM degrees are permitted to stay in the United States 29 months after graduation under the student visa program, while non-STEM degree holders are permitted to stay 12 months. 


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