Report: International students spend millions in Tucson

Published: Sep. 1, 2014 at 1:58 AM MST|Updated: Sep. 15, 2014 at 10:26 AM MST
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PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - International students spent more than $160 million on tuition and housing around Tucson over a five-year stretch, according to a new report.

Nearly 4,500 students traveled to the Tucson area on student visas, according to the Brookings Institution. The study covers 2008 – 2012, which is before a surge of new students in Southern Arizona thanks to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program.

More than 200 Mexican students studied at the University of Arizona for four weeks this summer, and now another 50 will be taking classes at Pima Community College for three months.

All of the students are STEM-focused, so they're studying science, technology, engineering and math. Jahaziel Alejandro wants to know more about renewable energy, specifically solar. He said he's looking forward to learning in Tucson and getting to know the surrounding community.

"This program it is fantastic," he said. "For me, on a personal level, it is fantastic."

Current PCC student Raymundo Montes is one of several volunteers to work with the new arrivals on learning outside of the classroom. He said he's excited to help with an opportunity that he did not have when he moved to Texas when he was 9 years old.

"The teachers, they didn't know Spanish so to try to communicate with them was always hard," said Montes. "So it's really exciting to have them here. They get to learn from us, and we learn from them."

PCC is one of six community colleges in the nation to be a part of the 100,000 Strong program. Dr. Daisy Rodriguez Pitel, Advanced Program Manager for Student Life, said several organizations on both sides of the international border are responsible for sending these 50 students to school with scholarships.

The money covers everything from their bus passes to spending stipends. She said it's to keep the Mexican students involved in the community.

"It's really important that we provide them a comprehensive program and for them to know that when you go to college in the United States, it's not just about taking classes," she said.

Students from Mexico are the fourth largest group of international students, according to the recently released study. The following is a list of the top five:

China - 1,872
India - 501
South Korea - 323
Mexico - 233
Saudi Arabia - 159

And it's not all about PCC and the U of A, because the report mentions three other schools are outlets for these students: Southwest University of Visual Arts, The Art Institute of Tucson, and University of Phoenix.

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