W4: U.S. Student Mobility

I chose to focus on the section in the reading pertaining to student mobility as I take a personal initiative in these programs and hope to work in a study abroad or for a student exchange program after completing my masters. I was excited to see the scholarship programs available in the US to international students choosing to study in the United States and particularly happy about the graduate student scholarships, as I wonder if a higher percentage of these students wish to stay and work in the US after receiving their graduate degree. However, I do know only a small percentage of international students receive scholarships and due to the high sticker price international students must pay and their ineligibility to apply for financial aid, studying in the US seems out of reach for many international students.

While reading this document, its clear that the process of internationalization in the US is very segmented, with the government supporting some initiatives, each college and university having very different policies and programs, and influence from non-governmental agencies. Much of the scholarship initiatives for inbound students are only funded by the State Department; however, the scholarship programs for outbound students are much more robust, with funding from the State Department, the National Security Education Program, and the Paul Simon Study Abroad Act which provides $80 million per year for study abroad to individuals and institutions.  In addition to these governmental funding of scholarships, I did some research on private and non-profit organizations that offer funding for students wanting to study abroad.  NAFSA provides a list of search engines to use and the Institute of International Education (IIE) provides and entire search engine website specifically for IIEPassport Study Abroad Funding.  According to the Institute of International Education, a total of 304,467 students studied abroad for academic credit in the 2013-2014 academic year.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 17.5 million undergraduate students at postsecondary degree granting institutions in the United States in the Fall of 2013.  If these numbers are accurate, that equates to approximately 2% of the entire undergraduate population who is actually “mobile” and successfully studying overseas.  President Obama’s 100,000 Strong initiatives: one from 2009 which aimed to have a national effort to increase the number of students studying in China and another in 2011 which had the goal of doubling student mobility (both inbound and outbound) between the US and Latin America and the Caribbean.  The former program was originally housed by the State Department but now is an independent foundation.  The second program is a collaboration between the State Department and NAFSA- Association of International Educators and Partners of the Americas.   I had not previously heard of these initiatives, so I continued to investigate and it looks like President Obama’s goal was reached in 2014, when 100,000 US students studied in China that year.  In addition, there was a 5% increase in Americans studying in China last year and a 23% increase in Chines students studying in the US last year.  I think these are amazing statistics and proof that a program like this, coming from the President, has the power to reach big goals in only a few short years.  While the document talks about whether an overarching national policy would be truly effective in advancing internationalization in the US, I think this example proves that it may help more than we think.  I think to successfully increase the overall percentage of mobile students,  collaboration from the government, non-profit organizations and the colleges themselves is essential.

W4- Internationalization of U.S. Higher Education and Government Involvement

As we continue getting familiar with the topic of internationalization, this week’s reading “Internationalizing U.S. Higher Education” focused on the current policies and possible future direction of internationalization of higher education in the United States. I will be focusing on government involvement in the internationalization of US higher education but before that I want to point out key ideas/facts that I took notice to in the report:

  • 1) Cross-border Education is a program/policy type that is growing abroad but is not seeing any significant growth in program or polices in the United States
  • 2) Institutional autonomy and the country’s decentralized government can be seen as a hindrance to higher education internationalization
  • 3) National security, public diplomacy and the economy are the key motivators of programs and polices related to internationalization; academic and capacity building are the rationales used abroad when implementing policies and programs
  • 4) The internationalization of U.S. higher education is not necessarily the goal or expected outcome of some of the programs and policies in place.

These points stood out to me because they illustrate that internationalizing in the U.S. is different from the programs and policies that are in place across the world.

The lack of a cohesive and comprehensive plan for the internationalization of U.S. higher education demonstrates the lack of cohesive direction of higher education in America. As the authors note, unlike other countries the United States does not have a government agency that is dedicated to higher education. Within the U.S. Department of Education, is the Office of Post-Secondary Education (OPE) that “works to strengthen the capacity of colleges and universities to promote reform, innovation and improvement in postsecondary education, promote and expand access to postsecondary education and increase college completion rates for America’s students, and broaden global competencies that drive the economic success and competitiveness of our Nation.” I was unable to locate information on the government appropriations for the OPE, but I believe it is safe to assume that the funding is minimally when compared to their global counterparts.

Government discussion on higher education is usually in the context of federal aid (grants and loans). Legislation that is passed that would promote internationalization of U.S. higher education focuses on programs and policies that are believed to support national security and the economy. The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007 was sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin and Representative Tom Lantos, the stated intentions of the bill don’t seem to align with the rational/motivations of legislative mandates of programs and policies that have gotten congressional support and approval. This maybe one of the reasons as to why the bill as not been enacted or is not a focus for Congress.

The report suggests that a comprehensive national policy on internationalizing U.S. higher education is not possible due to the systems and structures of the government and higher education institutions. Instead of a national policy “a broad, well-coordinated set of well-funded initiatives that support comprehensive internationalization” should be implemented. Any initiative that is put into place should come from a policy that lays out the expected goals, outcomes a rationales of internationalization U.S. higher education. Having an overreaching policy provides guidance. Instead of working with the federal government, state governments could be used as a vehicle to put into place policies to internationalize higher education that can be implemented by colleges and universities that meet certain criteria. Most states have some sort of standalone agency/department that focuses on the governing of higher education, these departments could be charged with implanting policies that are passed by the state legislatures.

It is important to point out that for any government state or federal to take an interest in the importance of internationalization of higher education, the officials have to understand how and why this topic is important to them and their constituents. Making higher education institutions global competitive is a good basis’s for providing an explanation, as we already know as Mr. Trump has said we need to make America great again.