Published: May 22, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented the University of Colorado Boulder with the President’s “E” Award for Exports at a ceremony Monday in Washington, D.C.

Larry Bell receiving E-AWard in Washington DC

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (left) presented Larry Bell, ​assistant vice chancellor for global strategic initiatives (middle), with the award in Washington, D.C. They are joined by Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade Kenneth E. Hyatt.

The President’s “E” Award is the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports. CU Boulder, the only institution of higher education to receive this year’s award, was specifically called out for prioritizing international education and doubling international student enrollment over the past five years.

“The University of Colorado Boulder has demonstrated a sustained commitment to export expansion,” Ross said in his congratulatory letter announcing its selection. “The institution's growth of employment tied to increases in the number of international students was also particularly notable. The University of Colorado Boulder's achievements have undoubtedly contributed to national export expansion efforts that support the U.S. economy and create American jobs.”

In total, Ross honored 32 U.S. companies and organizations from across the country with the President’s “E” Award for their role in strengthening the U.S. economy by sharing American ingenuity outside of our borders.

While education is not considered a commodity by all, that perception is changing, said Larry Bell, assistant vice chancellor for global strategic initiatives at CU Boulder.

“The trading of knowledge is something that is increasingly being thought of as an economic commodity,” Bell said. “The Denver World Trade Association featured knowledge and research innovation as a commodity in World Trade Day this year.”

Bell pointed out that international education is the seventh largest export industry in the U.S. At CU Boulder, 3,079 international students were enrolled in 2016–17, up from 1,643 five years earlier.

“It’s not just tuition we’re talking about,” Bell said. “These students also rent rooms, buy food, buy clothes, buy cars. They spend money outside of simply tuition.”

Nationally, international students have a $32 billion economic impact, he said. International students at CU Boulder contributed $106 million to the state’s economy last year and supported more than 1,600 jobs, according to NAFSA, the Association of International Educators.

U.S. companies and institutions are nominated for the “E” Awards through the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service, located within the department’s International Trade Administration. The U.S. Commercial Service helps U.S. entities expand in international markets by lending their expertise at every stage of the exporting process.

U.S. exports totaled $2.21 trillion in 2016, accounting for nearly 12 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Exports supported an estimated 11.5 million jobs nationwide in 2015, according to the most recent statistics from the International Trade Administration.

In 1961, President Kennedy signed an executive order reviving the World War II “E” symbol of excellence to honor and provide recognition to America's exporters. Criteria for the award is based on four years of successive export growth and case studies which demonstrate valuable support to exporters resulting in increased exports for the company’s clients. 

“One thing people consistently don’t fully appreciate is that international students contribute greatly to the local economy - in addition to the contributions they make in the classroom and the diversity on the campus,” Bell said.