Ohio is the first state to pass a law that makes attracting and retaining international college students a priority. Lawmakers recognized that educating international students is a huge boost to the state’s economy and global competitiveness.

This pioneering initiative is called the Ohio Global Reach to Engage Academic Talent, or Ohio G.R.E.A.T



In the fall of 2013, international students made up 4.1 percent of all college students enrolled in Ohio, according to Board of Regents Chancellor John Carey’s report that outlines his recommendations for Ohio G.R.E.A.T. International students, through their tuition, living expenses and spending, contributed more than $827 million to the state economy, making postsecondary education of international students Ohio’s 15th largest export.

Carey’s report recommended increasing international students to a total of 6 percent of Ohio’s college students in the next two years. That amount would contribute an estimated $1.2 billion annually to the State’s economy and support 17,099 jobs for Ohio residents.

According to Carey, Ohio G.R.E.A.T.’s three main policy objectives are: link to the proposal

1.      To promote Ohio as a postsecondary destination globally.

2.      To encourage international postsecondary students to remain in the state beyond their study.

3.      To enhance global economic competitiveness for native Ohio students.

Part of Ohio G.R.E.A.T. will focus on retaining international students to bolster the state’s economy. In addition, the initiative will address hurdles those students face. Among them are limitations in the number of nonimmigrant H1B visas allotted by the federal government. The number of visa petitions far outpaces the number of those annually authorized, meaning a lottery system comes into play with selection. A state-level effort to push for federal immigration reform in this area would greatly improve Ohio’s ability to retain international talent.

Immigration attorney Erin Brown Farro addressed H1B applications at the Jan. 21st installment of Case Western Reserve University’s International Student Success Series, sponsored by Global Cleveland.  “Expanding the H1B visa is extremely important to employers and the economy, and workers,” Brown Farro said in an interview. 

The United States is host to so many bright and talented foreign nationals and it is a shame there aren’t more ways to retain them, she continued.

“It is very important that Congress look at immigration reform as a whole, and not just [concentrate on illegal immigrants],” Brown Farro said.


Carey has appointed a postsecondary education liaison, Lauren McGarity, to work with with higher education institutions, a variety of state and community agencies, immigration law experts and workforce development groups. Out of those conversations, according to Carey’s report, came the idea that the Ohio G.R.E.A.T. initiative needs to address how to foster more collaboration between higher-education institutions and Ohio businesses to align the talent with workforce needs. Another priority is to create opportunities within the state to increase the number of international students who remain here, which will, in turn, support other state education initiatives.