An action plan is urgently needed to safely allow international students with existing visas back into NSW and help rebuild the education sector.
It comes after universities, including Charles Sturt University (CSU) which has a campus in Port Macquarie, are preparing to suffer significant financial losses.
Port Macquarie has the highest number of international students at any of CSU's campuses.
Kellon Beard, Regional Manager of Business NSW, said international education is a significant contributor to the NSW and Mid North Coast economy, and before COVID-19 hit, Australia hosted around 570,000 international students.
"There are currently tens of thousands of international students with existing student visas waiting to return to NSW, and Australia," Mr Beard said.
"In the same way that we are planning how to reopen businesses in main streets and shopping centres, we need a plan of action to ensure these students return to our universities, TAFEs and private training institutions as soon as possible."
Stephen Cartwright the CEO of Business NSW, as Chair of the NSW International Education Advisory Board, wrote to the Federal Government asking for assistance for international students who lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 and who were at risk of falling through the cracks of the various support packages.
The NSW Government's announcement of a $20 million support package providing emergency accommodation, legal support and a Service NSW hotline was a great first step, Mr Beard said, and will help thousands of international students stranded in Australia without support.
"However, we are not going to wake up tomorrow and find that Australia is completely clear of COVID-19," Mr Beard added.
"The Federal and NSW Government must now work with education providers to bring international students back to our shores.
"This will mean developing a longer-term strategy to reopen international education in Australia, including having the right health and safety procedures, including mandatory quarantine periods, in place."
Australian National University academic Andrew Norton believes no university will have "any choice but to cut costs".
He said years of reliance on full-fee paying international students have left the university sector unable to cope with COVID-19 travel bans.
The tertiary education sector has a limit to how many tax-payer subsidised - or fee-help - domestic students it can take in, while it is encouraged to attract a strong quota of profitable international students.
"Universities are constrained by policy, they cannot take in more domestic students. Most universities are already at their cap limit, so it would help to ease the cap," Mr Norton said.
It comes after CSU announced a massive $80 million revenue deficit that will require staff downsizing.
While staff are awaiting confirmation on how the exact financial strain has been calculated, the university has pinned much of the shortfall on its inability to continue attracting overseas dollars at this time.
To assist universities this year, the federal government recently announced an $18 billion funding package.
That is added to the additional $18 billion that was provided from the Commonwealth in 2018 which brought the sector's total revenue for that year to over $34 billion.