In contrast to last weeks reading this weeks reading is about internationalizing U.S. higher education. I found it interesting that our discussion about incentives to ensure students go back to their home country was a hot topic last week but the U.S. does not really push those ideas. Instead programs like extending optional practical training to students who come study abroad here to 29 months instead of 12. For example, the David L. Boren scholarship and fellowship only require U.S. students to work for 1 year or the U.S. government. With the hefty monetary amount that they are given as well, more years should be required.
Another program that was really surprising and I did not know about was the 2013 U.S. Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research. Currently we are fighting a huge battle political about making our borders stronger but opening up a program like this could make or break those policies. These agreements were made with President Obama and the Mexican president where they plan on sending over 100,000 Mexican students by 2018 and 50,000 U.S. students to Mexico. I can see this policy being broken when a new presidential candidate is elected. Right now millions of people are fleeing Mexico due to unsafe conditions, why would we want to send our students into that kind of predicament. Can the Mexican government ensure our students safety? In an article I read it states that the Mexican government does need to try harder than the Americans convince students to study abroad in their country.
There have also been many goals set in place by the U.S. government without any actual plan on how to achieve these goals. The reading mentions that there are several reasons why there is not a comprehensive national policy for the internationalization of higher education in the U.S. but the largest is that we have no central ministry of education. Since I work with international admissions at CUNY I see that many other countries have centralized ministries of education. I never understood why students could not receive transcripts directly from their university as many of them insisted they had to reach out to the ministry of education. As much as this may be difficult at times it centralizes the higher education system. If the U.S. had something similar to this we may not have to worry about non accredited institutions giving students degrees that are not accepted in the work place or by other accredited institutions.
This weeks ACE reading on internationalization in the US discussed a variety of initiatives taking place. Some topics that stood out to me include decentralized policymaking, a US-Mexico exchange program and funding issues.
A striking detail was the chart on page 11 showing the numerous players involved in the creation/ implementation/ regulation of higher education internationalization policies and programs. This setup seems to be the result of the US being one of the few countries without a Ministry of Education. Two of the five players involved (Federal and State governments) have systems in which their leaders serve between 4-8 years. Does the potential of differing visions between a leader and their successor affect the ability to implement long term changes to the approach of internationalization?
I was interested in the US-Mexico higher ed exchange program (FOBESII) started in 2013 by President Obama and President Peña Nieto of Mexico, in part due to the contrast between this agreement and the anti Mexican sentiments voiced on the campaign trail. Would the election of a particular candidate lead to the dissolution of this program? We should cross our fingers that FOBESII remains intact, as it has made some notable achievements in 2014, including: The travel of almost 27, 000 Mexican students and instructors to the US, doubling pre FOBESII numbers. 23 new educational agreements between the US and Mexico, resulting from visits of US university presidents. The groundbreaking of a US public university (Arkansas State U), and a US research center (Colorado State U) in Mexico. Will our 45th president see the value in exchange agreements like FOBESII or find such relations with our southern neighbor problematic?
Funding is a vital topic when discussing internationalization, and it can be argued that it should be the first topic discussed. The charts on pgs 37-38 illustrate how far behind US funding is with the internationalization efforts of other countries such as Saudi Arabia, with our total funding amounts to less than the funding for individual programs elsewhere. However, it will be interesting to see if the current low oil prices affect funding for international education programs. Also notable is the difference between American and Canadian government funding for institutional internationalization programs. The most significant fact from the ACE funding section was that US federal internationalization programs often do not provide federal funding. Among the multiple outside sources they use to fund their programs are foreign governments. ACE notes that this setup is unbalanced and puts our relationships with these governments at risk. However, in spite of the arguments that can be made in favor of increased funding for internationalization initiatives in the US, this seems unlikely seeing that federal and state funding for higher education continuously faces cuts.
FOBESII resource: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/01/235641.htm