Archive for December 2011
I had the pleasure of spending part of Christmas Eve at Chu Van An High School to celebrate the founding of the International Club. In addition to delivering some remarks (my company, Capstone Vietnam, is a major sponsor of the club in 2012), presenting flowers and a sponsorship certificate, and participating in a lucky draw, my colleagues and I sat back and enjoyed the many talented performers “doing their thing” on stage and in the aisles. One of the more memorable acts was a breakdancing Santa, who rocked the house.
As I mentioned in my mercifully short speech to a restless audience of (mostly) students who were waiting with rapt anticipation for the various performances by their peers, I’ve noticed in the time that I have lived here just how open many young Vietnamese are to the world, how interested they are in learning foreign languages and about other cultures and, in growing numbers, traveling, participating in short-term internship and work programs, and studying overseas.
A word about Chu Van An High School (Trường Trung học Quốc gia Chu Văn An): It’s one of the three public magnet high schools in Hanoi, along with Hanoi-Amsterdam High School and Nguyen Hue High School. Established by French authorities in 1908 as the High School of the Protectorate (Lycée du Protectorat), it’s one of the oldest high schools in Indochina. (In case you’re interested in knowing who Chu Van An is, click here.)
The things we do in the name of community outreach.
It is well-known that the majority of Vietnamese students begin their US higher education at a community college (two-year school) as a gateway to a four-year college or university to complete their bachelor’s degree.
A community college program in Washington state that allows student to earn a Washington high school diploma and a university transfer associate degree in just two years, is all the rage among Vietnamese students and parents. Green River Community College, for example, which calls this program High School Completion Plus, highlights the key advantages on its website: Save Time and Money, Earn Dual Degrees and Fast Track.
In addition to saving time and money, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak, high school completion programs enable students to make a smooth linguistic and cultural adjustment and better prepare them for study at a four-year college or university. For Vietnamese parents of means who cannot afford an overseas boarding school (40-50k per year) these programs are a cost-effective and attractive option for their children to obtain a quality education, something that is in short supply at home. There are about 22 Washington community colleges that actively recruit international students.
High School Completion Programs & Student Visas
Based on my experience, consular officers set the bar a bit higher for those who wish to participate in these programs. The student must be able to explain why s/he is transferring from a Vietnamese high school (in some cases a talented and gifted school) to a high school completion program in the US and what her/his long-term plans are. The legislation (PDF) on which the high school completion program is based was enacted by the Washington State Legislature in March 1990 and updated in September 2011.
Vietnamese Students & Washington State
According to the Open Doors 2011 Fact Sheet for Washington (PDF), Vietnam ranks 3rd among all places of origin with 9.4% of total international student enrollment in that state of 17,811, which amounts to 1674 students. This amounts to just over 11% of total Vietnamese enrollment at US colleges and universities in 2010/11.
Chúc mừng Giáng Sinh 2011 và Năm Mới 2012!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
P.S.: To view a holiday greeting from my company, Capstone Vietnam, click here.
Thanks to Rahul Choudaha for permission to repost this insightful commentary…
With more than 260,000 students from China and India enrolled in the US, many American institutions are over-reliant on these two markets for meeting their international student recruitment goals. With the budget cuts, self-financed students are becoming increasingly important and Chinese undergraduate students are a lucrative and fast-growing segment. However, there are already concerns about concentration of Chinese students in some campuses and India had been showing stagnancy in last few years. This indicates that institutions need to look beyond China and India and cultivate other source countries.
At another level, there is a “stock market” mentality emerging in international student enrollment domain where stakeholders closely watch annual shifts in enrollment figures. However, it is important to look into long-term trends of emerging and declining markets. Here are some contrasting trends with four markets–two declining and two growing.
Japan and Indonesia have declined quite drastically. Decline in Japan is a due to changing demographics resulting in decline of college going pipeline. For Indonesia, decline in US numbers could be explained by attractiveness of Australia and Malaysia due to cost and proximity. Indonesia is second largest source country for Malaysia and third largest source country for Australia.
In contrast to Japan and Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam have shown robust growth over a decade. Vietnamese students in the US have grown by more than six times in a decade. Even Australia gained from the demand of Vietnamese students by 167% in four years from 9,634 in 2007 to 25,788 in 2010. Likewise, Nepalese students in the US have grown by nearly three times in a decade. Australia saw a strong growth in Nepalese students from 9,106 in 2007 to 22,019 in 2010 (142% in four years).
This growth in internationally mobile students from Nepal and Vietnam is primarily driven by growing aspirations of expanding educated classes which in turn is supported by economic development. Both Vietnam and Nepal saw their GDPs grew by nearly three-times in a decade.
Note: This is obviously a static image. (I’m having a problem importing the “plugin” that I need to make this work properly.) If you are interested in exploring the data, click here.
For as long as cities have existed, people have needed spaces where communities can gather and individuals can meet, find diversions, and conduct business. In various times and places, public markets, city parks, wide sidewalks, village and city squares, malls around national monuments, and other organized and unorganized public spaces have filled these roles. In recent years, however, even the idea of public space has come under threat from a variety of private and state interests.
This film is the story of one such place, Thong Nhat (Reunification) Park, the largest park in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
From Dancing in the Park – The Website.
This is a park I have visited and enjoyed on many occasions – one of the recreational gems of Hanoi. In fact, I included it in some video I took for a segment entitled Vietnam Today that I contributed to IN FOCUS: Vietnam, a project developed six or seven years ago by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Union College Partnership for Global Education (PGE) in support of its study abroad program in Hanoi.
Chalk one up for the public good over private gain (i.e., greed)!
Fifty-five percent of students wish to work for foreign-invested companies, making these institutions the top choice of working environment for graduates, according to an annual survey conducted by human resource consulting firm Nhan Viet Management Group.
The one question that this article did not address is WHY? Below are some comments from Vietnamese university students and recent graduates whose opinions I solicited:
Foreign-invested companies may offer better economic incentives: higher wage, promotions
International and professional working environment: more diverse workforce, allowing employees to interact with different people and enrich their cultural understanding
Strict and rigorous working environment with no unfair treatment, bureaucracy or corruption (contrary to most Vietnamese companies)
Professional development opportunities
Fairly competitive atmosphere; a competitive atmosphere in which they MUST learn and develop or else they would be fired
Working for foreign companies may sound “cool” to youngsters, satisfying their self-esteem need; becoming the pride of their family and getting admiration from their friends
Seeing a growing number of friends working in international companies may also create peer pressure that drives more and more graduates to do the same
Interesting and challenging tasks in which they can demonstrate their leadership and managerial capacities, their English abilities and creativity besides specialised knowledge.
I think 55% maybe still an understatement, at least in the scope of my university.
In my mother’s bank, the job is quite tedious and mechanical with no scope for creativity and improvement. Therefore, after a few years, the staff’s English knowledge and soft skills seem to erode.
State-run companies are often notorious for non-transparent recruitment process, regulations, remuneration policies, etc. This knowledge is passed on from previous generations, who often are the youngsters’ parents and relatives, and insiders. Therefore, it may be another reason for graduates to prefer working for foreigners in the belief of a more fair place.
For me personally, I don’t take the issue of whether working for Vietnamese or international companies too seriously; as long as I love the job and am given enough chance to develop and prove myself in a professional working environment.
These are all the reasons why many young people want to work for foreign invested firms. (I myself would like to work for one of those companies, too.:-))
Photo: Tuoi Tre
These perceptions bode well for foreign companies but not so well for their Vietnamese counterparts. This is not to say that all Vietnamese companies, be they privately-owned or state-run, conform to these generalizations. There are a growing number of such companies that defy the stereotype. (On a personal note, I’m a satisfied customer of some, including one owned by the military.) Overall, I see this sort of competition as a favorable trend for young Vietnamese, 1.5 million of whom enter the labor market every year, according to the World Bank. In the long-term it will help raise the bar for everyone, including consumers.
Columbia Southern University (CSU), a nationally accredited (NA), for-profit online university based in Orange, Alabama, USA, is probably the most profitable US institution of higher education in Vietnam. CSU has 28,000 students in 22 countries and territories around the world with significant concentrations in Vietnam, China and Hong Kong. As its website notes, it “offers 23 degree and 23 certificate programs are available in a variety of popular fields such as fire science, criminal justice, business administration, information technology, human resource management and occupational safety and health.”
Raking It In
Since it began operating in Vietnam, CSU has earned an estimated $18 million in tuition and fees with 2000 MBA graduates. (Here is a link to the original Vietnamese language version of this article.) According to an official source, CSU currently has 405 active students from Vietnam. That number was expected to increase last July by 100-200 students, which translates into nearly $5 million in tuition revenue. One indication of the extent to which CSU is priming the pump is a recent advertising blitz, including standing banners that sprout up like mushrooms in the lobbies of upscale apartment buildings, elevator ads in said apartment buildings, lest you’re lacking for visual stimulation on the ride up, and banner ads on popular websites.
All in The Family
CSU is essentially a family business run by Robert Mayes, Jr., MBA, president, his sister, Chantell Cooley, executive vice president of admissions/partnership development, and her husband, Tommy Cooley, BS, vice president of business affairs. According to their bios, they’re all “pioneers in online education.” A family friend, Jimmy Weaver, BA, is the controller. CSU was founded in 1993 by Dr. Robert G. Mayes, a respected educator who died in 2005. Robert Mayes, Jr., his mother, Minnie Mayes, and Tommy Cooley also have business ties to Liberty Christian University, Inc. in Pensacola, Florida.
National Accreditation (NA)
CSU, which appears on my list of nationally accredited US schools active in Vietnam, is accredited (NA) by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Contrary to what DETC and NA school representatives will tell you, comparing nationally accredited schools to their regionally accredited counterparts is like comparing apples and oranges. One of my favorite examples, always good for a chuckle in public presentations here, is the Bergin University of Canine Studies in California, where you can earn a BS or MS degree in Cynology (i.e., the study of dogs).
Spreading the Wealth
One major source of income for CSU is the US military through the many enlisted personnel who enroll in CSU online degree programs. The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) and Veterans Affairs approves tuition assistance for all active-duty and retired military members. More than half of the CSU student body is currently comprised of active-duty military. CSU, which bills itself as a “military friendly college,” is one of approximately 140 schools approved to offer upfront tuition assistance through the U.S. Army centralized tuition assistance portal, GoArmyEd. According to the CSU website, Completely online programs, open enrollment, flexible courses and affordable tuition allow Servicemembers to achieve a quality education while preserving our nation’s freedom.
The CSU website notes that “At CSU, highly qualified and diverse faculty members are available to offer students individualized attention, advice, and support throughout each course. Our faculty members are recognized leaders within their professions and bring beneficial real-world experience to each course.” While a number of CSU faculty do have degrees from highly regarded and, in some cases, prestigious institutions, others list degrees from CSU, North Central University, a regionally accredited for-profit online university in Arizona, the University of Phoenix, a regionally accredited for-profit institution in Arizona, California Coast University (NA), Grantham University (NA), Southern California University (NA), etc.
On the Homefront
Orange, Alabama is not a bad place to run a for-profit university. It has everything a business needs to thrive: low taxes, low overhead, and low salaries. According to iTen Wired, CSU spent $2 million on salaries for 64 CSU employees in Baldwin County in 2006. The end result is high net profit. CSU’s “campus,” such as it is, is a 68,310 square foot three-story building completed in 2009 and featured prominently in most of its advertising. (See the pic at the top of this post. Below is a satellite view of the CSU building and the surrounding area.) It was assessed at $1.2 million in 2009. Construction is underway on a second building at the new 20-acre campus.
Courtesy of Google Maps
Credit Transfer/Degree Recognition
As I alluded to earlier, the difference between national and regional (“gold standard”) accreditation is like night and day. This is the reason why most RA schools will not accept credits or degrees from their NA counterparts. For example, a student with a BS degree in Business Administration from CSU would find it exceedingly difficult to pursue a MBA or other graduate degree at a RA school. While I can’t speak for CSU, many NA schools commit a sin of omission by not informing prospective students of this fact.
This article on Go 4 Learning! entitled Is Columbia Southern University A Scam? provides a succinct and accurate overview of this issue. This response also points out one of the limitations of a NA degree:
The Guy says:
June 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm
I was going to take courses at Columbia Southern University so that they would transfer to Portland State University. Before enrolling at Columbia Southern I called Portland State University and asked if they took transfer credit from Columbia Southern. Portland State’s reply: No, we don’t take transfer credits from Columbia Southern University.
Regional Accreditation is the gold standard.