Happy Lunar New Year! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

Posted 05/02/2016 by maavn
Categories: Announcement

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Wishing all of you a New Year filled with happiness, good health, peace & prosperity!

chuc mung nam moiii

“These Obscure Colleges Sign Up Thousands Of Foreign Students With Little Oversight”

Posted 02/02/2016 by maavn
Categories: Articles, Commentary

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Both Northwestern Polytechnic and Silicon Valley University are accredited, a distinction that allows colleges with many foreign students to avoid the most stringent oversight. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s student visa program depends on the accreditation system: it requires less documentation from accredited schools that want authorization to admit foreign students than it asks of unaccredited schools.


Not All Types of Accreditation Are Created Equal

This is ironic because accredited institutions are supposed to be held to a higher standard.  Of course, there are different levels of accreditation and different types of accreditors.  National accreditation (NA), the category into which both NPU and SVU fall, is not to be confused with regional accreditation (RA), considered to be the gold standard.  NA is much easier and much less expensive to obtain.  While most NA entities are for-profit online and career schools, quite a few are nonprofits, which gives them more legitimacy, in the eyes of many.

Once an institution receives accreditation and it obtains SEVP Certification, which gives it the authority to issue I-20s, it can pretty much run on autopilot until a scandal of some sort surfaces in the media.  The article on which this post is based is Exhibit A.

Truth in Advertising?

Another point, which I’ve mentioned on many occasions, is the fact that most RA schools do not accept credits or credentials from NA schools, for obvious reasons.  This means if a NPU or SVU students want to transfer, they must start over again, in most cases.  This is also an issue that the US government – through EducationUSA – must address sooner rather than later, since EdUSA represents all “officially accredited” US colleges and universities.

$how Me The Money! 

Here’s one of the money paragraphs in the article, pun intended.

Thanks to its huge surge in enrollment, NPU took in $40 million in 2014, and spent $12 million — leaving it with a $28 million surplus…

Hmm, let’s see.  Revenue of $40 million with $12 million in expenses and a $28 million surplus translates into a 70% profit margin.   Nonprofits are also tax-exempt, if I’m not mistaken, which means that’s $28 mill tax-free.   Not too shabby.  In addition, the value of NPU’s assets jumped from $46.53 million to $75.32 million in 2014.  Also not too shabby.  In fact, that’s one hell of a business model.

Speaking of tax-exempt, NPU might want to find someone to proofread their 990 form.  Here are some excerpts from the 2014 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax:




Who’s Minding the Store?

From a colleague who shares my concerns about this issue:

  1. What are the odds students are told up front about the RA vs NA distinction?
  2. What are the odds students are being introduced to quality options?

These are rhetorical questions.  You know the answers, sadly.

Where are the referrals coming from?  You know where.  From education agents whose primary, or exclusive, concern is money and how much they can make – pronto.  These are what one colleague referred to as “bottom feeding agents.”  Students who attend these types of universities generally fall into two categories:  1)  those who think it’s something that it’s not because an agent sells them a bill of goods (they show up, discover the deception and look for quality transfer opportunities); and 2) those whom a well-known colleague aka accreditation expert calls “willing co-conspirators,” who – with a wink and a nod – go, pay 20k a year (tuition/fees only) and wait for the chance to work and eventually emigrate. The latter know the score.

As one colleague put it, “It’s a great illustration of how lax oversight by the US government perpetuates agent misconduct and gives professionals of all stripes a bad name in the process. ”

Easy as Pie

These schools know which hoops to jump through & which buttons to push (we’re legal, we’re accredited, we’re American!).  Meanwhile, too many student visa applications are being denied because the interviewing consular officers think or feel that the young people standing on the other side of the window, most of whom have letters of admission and I-20s from RA institutions, might be trying to use the F1 to emigrate.

In addition to the article, check out both university websites and form your own opinion.  Note that the new president of NPU is the son of the former and first president.  That’s called keeping it in the family.  In 2014, President George Hsieh earned $299,792 and his son, Peter, then Executive Vice President and Officer, earned $257,292.

Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.  A Vietnamese translation is forthcoming.  And the truth will set you free.  Stay tuned!

Finally, kudos to BuzzFeed reporters, Molly Hensley-Clancy and Brendan Klinkenberg!  I should probably create a series entitled Set Thine House in Order, which I kicked off with a recent post about mass shootings and study in the USA.


Bonus:  Here’s a 23 December 2015 article from The Times of India entitled ‘University of Manavallu’: In Silicon Valley, a dodgy Chinese-Telugu alliance.


June 2016 Vietnam Strategic Recruitment Retreat

Posted 25/01/2016 by maavn
Categories: Announcement

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’m pleased to announce that I will lead a Strategic Recruitment Retreat (SRR) in Phan Thiết, Vietnam from 17-19 June for colleagues whose institutions have targeted Vietnam as a high recruitment priority.  The purpose of the retreat is to give them the tools they need in terms of knowledge, insights and strategy in order to increase their chances of success in recruiting Vietnamese students in what has become a highly competitive market in recent years.  Colleagues can either come after the ICEF Thailand-Vietnam Agent Roadshow or attend on a stand-alone basis.  I’m delighted to welcome Study in the USA as an event sponsor. 

Follow this link for detailed information and online registration.


Set Thine House in Order

Posted 24/01/2016 by maavn
Categories: Commentary

Tags: , , , ,

America’s Love Affair with Guns & the Potential Impact on International Student Recruitment

We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere in the world.

US President Barack Obama

Exceptional indeed.  Another day in the US, another mass shooting.  Aside from the tragic fact that another 14 innocents were slaughtered and 17 people injured, physically and psychologically, in an attack at a San Bernadino center for people with developmental disabilities, no less, and all of the pain and sadness that entails, including the psychic suffering that survivors and their family members will have to endure for the rest of their lives, there is also a ripple effect that spans the globe for those considering the USA as an overseas study destination and those who recruit these students.

The US or Not the US:  Perception & the Element of Chance Trump Reality

maslows hierarchyIn Vietnam, for example, these massacres are reported in the media the same day they occur.  Safety and security, a key component of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which includes five motivational needs, are obvious concerns for parents even without the mass shootings that have become standard fare because the US lacks the political will to address this epidemic of violence.  This is on top of the usual run-of-the-mill violent crime prevalent in certain areas where there is a strong correlation between poverty and such crime, the kind of information included in many international student orientations.

Recently, I have been hearing more questions about personal safety than in the past.  One parent recently chose Canada for her child because of concerns about violence in the US, by which she meant mass shootings as a common occurrence.  Can I assure her that it will not happen to her child? Not with 100% certainty.  With easy access to personal weapons of mass destruction, e.g., military grade assault rifles (as opposed to 18th century muskets) designed to kill large numbers of human beings in a short period of time, it could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  It’s clear the US has long since reached a tipping point. Inaction is still action and one with dire consequences, in this case.

I can only tell a parent that the chances of it happening are slim but, of course, not as slim as in Canada, Australia and other countries that do not have this problem for various reasons, including legislative action taken to prevent such incidents.  Chalk up safety and security as a “selling point” for countries other than the US.

They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love?

gun shutterstock_279383699Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s statement at an early December student convocation at Liberty University, whose motto is Training Champions for Christ Since 1971, is not the solution and only serves to pour more rhetorical gasoline on an already raging fire.

“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …,” he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, chuckling.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”

“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

Long-Term Impact?

This orgy of violence and anti-Muslim sentiment and actions fueled by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Donald Trump have the potential of making it increasingly difficult to “sell” US higher education abroad, one service sector export I am proud to promote. (Update:  Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorses Trump.  Two peas in a pod.)  While I know that the issue of international students studying in the US is not a high priority in the wake of the latest mass shooting du jour, it could very well have a decidedly negative impact on the status of the United States as the world’s leading host of international students and an industry that contributed $30.5 billion to the US economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.


Vietnamese student numbers growing in the US

Posted 17/01/2016 by maavn
Categories: Articles

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Below is an excerpt from my recent University World News (UWN) article.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.


Top 10 Countries of Citizenship 11-15

There are currently 1.2 million international students studying in the United States, nearly 75% of whom are enrolled in bachelor, masters or doctoral programmes. California, New York and Texas enrol 36% of all students. Some 919,484 of them, or 77% of the total, are from Asia. Compared to July 2015, the total number of active international students studying in the US increased 13.3%.

These figures are from the latest SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update published in December. Unlike the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors statistics, which are based on data collected the previous year and include higher education enrolment only, SEVIS data are real-time and encompass all levels of the educational system.

Spotlight on Vietnam

One of the shining highlights of the SEVIS report is the breakneck growth in Vietnamese enrolments at all levels of the US educational system, especially at its colleges and universities.

Vietnam has surpassed Japan in total enrolment. It recorded an astounding 18.9% increase from July to November 2015, the third highest after India (20.7%) and China (19.4%).

Incredibly, Vietnam now ranks sixth among all sending countries with 28,883 students studying at US institutions, mostly colleges and universities but also boarding and day schools.

Vietnam is also nipping at the heels of Canada, something that was unimaginable seven years ago when it was not even in the top 10. It climbed to eighth place in 2009 with 15,994 students and stayed there until the end of 2015.

The US has surpassed Australia in terms of numbers of Vietnamese students as there were 28,524 Vietnamese students studying in Australia at all levels as of October 2015, a 0.4% decrease over the previous year.

Interestingly, 54.7% of all Vietnamese students in the US are female and 45.3% male. That’s a difference of nearly 2,700 students.

In terms of degree-related programmes, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Language Training: 12.9% (3,732)
  • Associate: 27.9% (8,050)
  • Bachelor: 31.1% (8,976)
  • Masters: 8.1% (2,330)
  • Doctorate: 4% (1,159)

“Young, educated, unemployed: Vietnamese graduates struggle to find jobs”

Posted 14/01/2016 by maavn
Categories: Articles, Commentary

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Students attend a job fair in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach

Students attend a job fair in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach (Thanh Nien News)

“How can I have experience just after graduating from university? No firm wants to recruit an employee with little experience like me,” Nguyen Thuy Hang, 22, said while looking for accounting jobs on a jobs site.

The Hanoi National Economics University graduate has sent out CVs to dozens of local and foreign-owned companies, but only three of them have called her for interviews. Unfortunately, she said, she was less experienced than other applicants and did not make much of an impression.

Hang is like many recent university graduates.  As in other countries, they need much more than a university degree to find a suitable job.  They are competing with fellow graduates who took advantage of internship opportunities and found ways – outside of the classroom – to learn and hone various soft skills, improve their English proficiency and, in some cases, to learn valuable IT skills.  The problem is that most universities do not offer services that facilitate these connections and opportunities, e.g., career planning and placement offices, so the responsibility falls squarely on their young shoulders.

Then there is the quality of the education being provided, which at most institutions is heavy on textbook knowledge and theory and short on practical experience and soft skills, including communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, problem solving, critical thinking and conflict resolution.  (I can confirm this as both an interested observer and an employer.)  Nguyen Thi Van Anh, managing director of jobs firm Navigos Search, said in the article on which this post is based that the shortage of necessary skills is much more serious in Vietnam than in other ASEAN countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

This sentiment is reflected in a statement by Hoang Ngoc Vinh, director of the Professional Education Department at the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET), who noted that the unemployment problem might come from the quality of university education, rather than the surplus of university graduates.  Around 25-30% of the labor force in developed countries are university graduates; in Vietnam, it’s only 7%. “The quality of university graduates may have not met the demands of the labor market,” he said, as cited by Tuoi Tre.

Another issue is the lack of desire on the part of some recent graduates to gain on-the-job experience, to pay their dues, so to speak, in order to be better prepared for the kind of white-collar job they are looking for.  As Phan Truong Son, manager of a chain of restaurants, cafes and shops in Hanoi, put it, his firm announced vacancies for 20 salespeople and waiters, but got only three applications.

Finally, one of the most compelling issues is a structural one. Duong Duc Lan, director of the labor ministry’s vocational training department, said the country possibly has more graduates than it needs. Vietnam has around one million high school graduates every year and only around 3% of them go to vocational schools, while most want a college degree.  Why?  Because of prestige and the belief that a university degree will automatically result in a white-collar job with a higher salary and more respect.  Meanwhile, Vietnam desperately needs more qualified workers.  The problem is twofold:  attracting more students to certain vocational programs and improving the quality of those programs.

To put all of the above in perspective the national unemployment rate in Vietnam is 2.35%, according to the Ministry of Labor, a fifth of which is university graduates.  Thus, the overall issue is underemployment for many rather than unemployment for the country as a whole and a disconnect between student/parent beliefs and aspirations, the educational system and the labor market.



Louis Preschool & Kindergarten: “My Passion – Your Great Future”

Posted 09/01/2016 by maavn
Categories: Updates

Tags: , ,

louis kindergarten

Introducing one of Hanoi’s newest preschools and kindergartens, named after the famous French kings.  (There’s also a restaurant in Hanoi named “Louis,” which makes me smile.  See below.)  One glance at the website and you’ll see that this is not your average Vietnamese school.  Even if you don’t read Vietnamese, just look at the pictures.

louis restaurant

Pardon the quality. This pic was taken in a “drive-by photoshooting.”

Since location is everything in the world of real estate, Louis’ location is ideal in a high-income part of the city, nestled among high-rise condos and private homes, whose residents can afford the cost of sending their child to this luxury preschool/kindergarten.  The monthly fee is about $245, not including meals and other items.  Last year, Vietnam’s per capita income was about $2,200.



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