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A Study in Student Opportunities: Massachusetts

October 29, 2013

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a gateway to foreign-born immigrants for almost 400 years. Today, a significant number of those new arrivals are students. Because it was one of the earliest settlements in what is now the United States, Massachusetts is home to some of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. Foreign students have come to schools like Harvard, MIT, Smith and Amherst for generations. Today, international students have become so essential to higher education that colleges, universities and community colleges across the state are vying for their share.

University-related opportunities are easy to find in Massachusetts. In fact, Boston has a higher concentration of colleges and universities than any other city in the country, and education is an important driver of the state’s economy. Every autumn Boston, Cambridge and the surrounding communities see a huge infux of students of all nationalities. Scientists flock to the area’s hospitals and research institutions, and technology graduates are drawn to the high-tech corridor that curls around the outer rim of the metropolitan area.

International presence

According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), universities and colleges in Massachusetts enrolled 41,258 foreign students in the school year 2011-12, the fourth largest student population of any U.S. state. Northeastern University and Boston University each drew over 6,000 students, followed by Harvard with 5,453 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with 3,833.

Together these four schools bring over 21,000 students into the Boston/Cambridge metropolitan area, about half of the international enrollees in the state. However, in the central and western parts of the state, as well as Cape Cod, you’ll find students from all around the world. While in Massachusetts, foreign studente xpenditures totaled an estimated $1.489billion during the 2011-2012 academic year.

An eclectic mix

Massachusetts presents a unique set of opportunities. The schools in Boston coexist in a major metropolitan setting. Moving west, much of the rest of the stateis classic small-town rural New England.

Boston is a major magnet for international students. It’s a world-class city with direct fights to many countries and most major American cities. It also has a rich heritage and cultural arts scene and is an easy drive to New York City and most spots in New England.

Boston is also a mecca for foreign students from wealthy families, who are recently trending toward renting or purchasing luxury residences for their student children. If you want to assist foreign students in the Boston area, make sure you’re familiar with university housing and popular off-campus rental options, but also:

  • Know the luxury market in upscale areas near large universities, like Beacon Hill and the Back Bay;
  • Look for fully furnished luxury apartmentswith amenities like concierge service, even those that do not typically rent to students; and,
  • Be acquainted with the luxury condominium market in case parents are looking for a second home or pied-a-terre in Boston.

Western Massachusetts actively recruits international students through a consortium called Study Western Massachusetts, a diverse group of institutions including public and private colleges and universities and community colleges. Go to studywesternmass.org to locate participating colleges. Beyond education, the consortium supports the growth of international trade in the region,offering another way to expand your global connections. Contact them to see where you can be of assistance in relocating students and international workers.

The Brazilian immigrant community in Massachusetts has sky rocketed in the last 30 years, while in the last decade Brazil’s middle class has grown as the economy took off. Brazil now sees Massachusetts as one of its strongest partners in the United States. The president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, made only two stops during her 2012 trip to the U.S.; one to President Obama and one to Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.

Brazilian students will be coming in greater numbers to the state under several new academic partnerships with the U.S. Brazil will be sending 75,000 students abroad to study in the STEM fields (science,technology, engineering and mathematics). Massachusetts is well positioned to capture several thousand of these students. Agents with a knowledge of Brazilian communities in eastern Massachusetts can assist these students when they arrive.

Don’t forget visa workers at universities and teaching hospitals. Major universities are among the top area employers of H1-B visa workers in the Boston area. Investigate ways you can assist in relocating their incoming foreign employees; this may mean tapping the same contacts handling university student housing, or you may need to establish other administration contacts for faculty services.

Leveraging opportunities to expand your business

If you’re able to cultivate a niche working with foreign students from a particular country, use what you learn to develop additional business with nearby immigrant communities from the same country. Or watch for opportunities to travel with your university connections on a trade mission to meet with prospective students and their families on their home turf.

The more you learn and the more contacts you make, the wider your global opportunities will become. The university market in Massachusetts—and in many other states—offers a wide array of choices for targeting global buyers. There is no “best” choice, only many good options for starting, and growing, your own global niche.