The Wave Continues to Build: Vietnamese Students in the USA

vn 12-17
Source:  SEVIS (DHS)

According to the latest Mapping SEVIS by the Numbers update from last month, there are currently 31,389 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels of the education system.  (2.59% of all international students in the US are from Viet Nam.)  

Viet Nam remains in 5th place sandwiched between Saudi Arabia, which experienced the sharpest decline among the top 10 sending countries, and Canada, which saw a small increase from May 2017.  

Country          May 2017       December 2017         
 
China                362,370          382.908                      
India                 206,708          212,288                      
S. Korea            71,206            68,128                        
Saudi Arabia   55,810            49,298                        
Viet Nam         30,279            31,389                        
Canada             29,536            30,034                        
Japan                24,837            24,809                        
Taiwan             22,803            24,110                        
Brazil                21,768            23,901                        
Mexico              16,207            16,212                        

Here are two changes from the end of the 2016/17 academic year to now that likely signal trends:

1)  A decrease in the percentage of Vietnamese students enrolled in “language training” from 10.7% to 8.5%.   

2)  An increase in the percentage of Vietnamese undergraduates enrolled in four-year schools from 29.7% to 31.8%.  (To put this in perspective, 90% of all Vietnamese undergrads in the US were enrolled in a community college in 2009/10.)  

level of study vn 12-17
Source:  SEVIS (DHS)

The top 10 host states remained the same.  The only change is that Pennsylvania displaced Florida.  Massachusetts, which remained in 4th place, saw the most significant increase. 

student population by state 12-17
Source:  SEVIS (DHS)
  1. CA: 6175
  2. TX: 5232
  3. WA: 2548
  4. MA: 1815
  5. NY: 1396
  6. PA: 1276
  7. FL: 1223
  8. IL: 967
  9. VA: 889
  10. GA: 712

While there are Vietnamese students in all 50 states, 71%, rounded up, are studying in these 10 states, a statistically insignificant decrease from May 2017.  This, of course, means that 29% are in the remaining 40 states and Puerto Rico, which has one (1). 

To drill down a bit deeper, 44.45% are in California, Texas, and Washington state.  I discuss some of the reasons for this in a September 2017 article I wrote for VNExpress International.  (The bluer the state, the more Vietnamese students are studying there.)

Stay tuned for a post in which I analyze this information in light of other trends in what I refer to as the perfect storm of converging factors that include the recent spike in the number of Vietnamese students studying in Canada, increasing competition within and outside of the US, and various sociopolitical factors.

MAA

Advertisements

US Department of Education “Derecognition” of ACICS, & EducationUSA

edusa logoAs I’ve written before and as some of you may know, EducationUSA, a US Department of State network of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries,works with both regionally and nationally accredited US institutions of higher education. 

Among the latter are hundreds of institutions, mostly for-profit career schools, that are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).  ACICS was derecognized by the US Department of Education in late 2016 after a series of investigative reports about a couple of its accredited schools.  This decision has stood in the new administration, much to my surprise, especially given the fact that Betsy “Amway” DeVos is the US secretary of education. 

VIU logoOne example of an ACICS-accredited institution that I’ve seen on the EducationUSA website and Facebook page is Virginia International University (VIU), located in Fairfax, VA, outside of Washington, D.C.  Like all other ACICS-accredited schools, VIU now has about five (5) more months to obtain another institutional accreditation.  This means that if it doesn’t and you’re a VIU student who is not expected to graduate until after that date, your alma mater could very well end up being unaccredited, the higher education equivalent of a company’s stock hitting rock bottom. 

Accreditation is an official stamp of approval that enables higher education institutions recruit international students but even without it they can retain their SEVP-approved status and still issue I-20s.  More about that disgrace in another post.

 Upmarket Visa Mill

us higher ed export

In case you missed this BuzzFeed investigative report, one of several, about Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) in Fremont, CA, one of the worst ACICS-accredited schools, here are some excerpts.  (While NPU is a nonprofit, it is a money-making machine for the Chinese-American family that owns it, as you can see in this report.)  Italics are mine. 

A college on the edge of Silicon Valley has turned itself into an upmarket visa mill, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found, deploying a system of fake grades and enabling thousands of foreign students to enter the United States each year — while generating millions of dollars in tuition revenue for the school and the family who controls it.

Spending millions on foreign recruiters, Northwestern Polytechnic University enrolls 99% of its students — more than 6,000 overall last year — from overseas, with little regard for their qualifications. It has no full-time, permanent faculty, despite having a student body larger than the undergraduate population of Princeton.

The school issues grades that are inflated, or simply made up, so that academically unqualified students can keep their visas, along with the overseas bank loans that allow the students to pay their tuition. For two years, top college administrators forbade professors from failing any students at all, and the university’s president once personally raised hundreds of student grades — by hand.

Those false credentials are all the students need to stay in the country. Many seek jobs in the tech industry, and their degrees allow them to remain working in the U.S. for years, avoiding the scrutiny of immigration officials that would have come if they had applied for a standard work visa.

The university operates as a nonprofit, with all the tax benefits that status confers. But its assets, which topped $77 million in 2014, have enriched the family that has controlled it for decades. The school has purchased homes for family members to live in, one of which cost more than $2 million. When it comes to educating students, however, NPU has spent astonishingly little. The $1.5 million it paid for a home occupied by the executive vice president and his family was more than it reported spending on the combined salaries of the school’s entire faculty and staff in 2014.

Even the university’s academic accreditation — which the school relied on in order to admit a flood of foreign students — is suspect: When the accreditor came for a site visit, the university staged a Potemkin village of a college, enlisting instructors to pretend they were full-time professors, prepping students with false answers to inspectors’ questions, and once even hiring a fake librarian.

When a whistleblower handed over a letter detailing the college’s bad behavior, the accreditor asked for a thin explanation, accepted it at face value, and issued no sanctions.

“Immediate Action”

This is an issue I have been writing and speaking about for years, a lone voice in the US higher education accreditation wilderness.  After a series of articles was published and the proverbial shit hit the fan,  so to speak, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) demanded “immediate action.”  This is the power of the press to effective positive change.  These results are few and far between so be sure to savor them.

The rest, as they say, is history.  ACICS was derecognized (love that word!) by the US Dept of Education for falling asleep at the wheel or not minding the store – pick your favorite idiom.  The bottom line is that ACICS-accredited schools will be unaccredited by June 2018, unless they get another form of accreditation, which is unlikely for many. 

 Stay tuned for more intrigue! 
 
MAA

Viet Nam’s GDP & Study in the USA

Here are some graphs that I use in presentations to graphically illustrate Viet Nam’s meteoric economic rise in the past decade and then some.  The take-off phase began with my arrival in 2005, a mere coincidence, and perhaps an example of a word I often associate with Viet Nam, serendipity

The icing on the cake came in the form of a recent official report that revealed Viet Nam’s economy grew at the fastest rate in a decade, slightly above the government target of 6.7% and considerably higher than the 6.21% for 2016.  Much of the growth was driven by the agriculture, seafood and forestry sectors, according to the government’s General Statistics Office (GSO).

One thing to keep in mind, and that I never tire of mentioning, is that GDP growth doesn’t tell the whole story, much of which is occurring beneath the surface.  Since GDP is the total value of everything produced by all the people and companies in the country, both domestic and foreign, it doesn’t reflect total income and therefore total ability to pay. This doesn’t mean that all of this activity is illegal – some of it is the result of corruption, petty and massive – only that it is not factored into the aggregate GDP figure.

NOTE:  GDP data differ between different sources, i.e., the World Bank vs. the International Monetary Fund. 

vietnam-gdp
Source:  World Bank
444743
Source:  IMF

Not surprisingly, economic growth is closely linked to ability to pay, which is why the number of Vietnamese students studying overseas mirrors their country’s economic ascendancy. 

Compare the enrollment trends in the US below with the GDP graphs above.  Note:  Open Doors data are from fall 2016 and only for higher education.  According to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update from May 2017, there are 30,279 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels, mostly higher education.

enrollment trends
Source:  IIE Open Doors Reports

It is estimated that Vietnamese parents spend $3 billion on overseas study expenses for their children, a number commonly used in the media, but the actual figure is probably considerably higher.  Consider that families are already spending nearly $1 billion, rounded up, in the US alone.

MAA

Donald Trump & I Agree on Two Things

IMG_3545
President Trump’s limousine rounding the corner on 11 November i on its way to the Metropole Hotel downtown Hanoi

As we ease into the Solar New Year and look ahead with great anticipation to the 2018 Lunar New Year, here are some upbeat thoughts about Donald Trump’s November 2017 visit to Viet Nam.  Let’s start the year off on a happy note!

In the weeks leading up to President Trump’s visit to Viet Nam for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang and the state visit to Hanoi the following day, I was interviewed by several journalists about the education angle of Trump’s visit and some of his (anti-immigration) policies, real or imagined. 

One of my comments, a hope, in fact, was that Donald Trump would say and do the right things, both scripted and unscripted.  In other words, that he would behave himself.  This was for the sake of continued good relations between the two countries and also continued interest in the US as an overseas study destination.

Lo and behold, he did!  Here are two examples, points on which he and I are agreement.  It’s a rare moment so savor it!

Vietnamese students rank among the best students in the world.  This assertion was made in a his speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Danang.  While it was no doubt written by one of his staff with input from the US Mission in Viet Nam, that statement is generally true in terms of academic achievement and reputation at many secondary and postsecondary institutions in the US and other countries.  

Viet Nam is one of the great miracles of the world, a statement he made at a state banquet in Hanoi.  Since this was Trump’s very first trip to Viet Nam, my guess is that his (mis)perceptions about the country and what it would look like and be like clashed with the reality of what he saw from Air Force One and his limousine.  In other words, it blew his mind.  All of the construction, the businesses, the cars, the luxury cars, the motorbikes, etc. 

I agree because I have an inkling, based on what I’ve read, seen, and experienced in my over 12 years of living and working in Viet Nam, of just how much the Vietnamese and their country have overcome since the end of the American War, and how much progress they’ve made. 

pew research survey life better worse
Pew Research Center Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, a whopping 88% of Vietnamese said that life is better than it was 50 years ago, the most positive response in the world.  (That percentage is not surprising when you consider that 1967 was approaching the height of the American War in Viet Nam, a war in which 3.8 million Vietnamese ultimately perished, over half of them civilians.) 

Then there is Viet Nam’s tiger economy, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, which has improved the standard of living and the quality of life for most Vietnamese.  That explains the high level of economic confidence.  (US Americans, by contrast, said that life is worse now than it was 50 years ago by a margin of 41% to 37%.)  91% said the economic conditions are good.  Even if you’re only in Viet Nam for a few days on your first visit, you will sense this optimism, dynamism, and forward momentum. 

MAA

Postscript: I would describe President’s Trump’s reception on the streets of Hanoi as lukewarm.  There was some polite applause as his limousine drove by.  (Those applauding included tourists.)  The level of excitement didn’t compare to that of Barack Obama’s visit in May 2016 or Bill Clinton’s trip in November 2000.  It was more on par with George W. Bush’s visit to Hanoi in 2006 for APEC. 

IMG_3540IMG_3549

Viet Nam Ranks Among Top 10 Foreign Residential Property Buyers in the US

major foreign buyers in US
Source: 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, NAR

Yes, I know this is old news from the summer of 2017 but it’s related to some other recent posts and perhaps not so old for some of you with an interest in these issues and trends.  It’s also related to one of my favorite topics, young Vietnamese studying in the USA. 

According to the 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate (PDF download), compiled by the National Association of (US) Realtors (NAR), Viet Nam ranked 9th in 2016-17, to be precise, after Germany with Japan rounding out the top 10.  Between April 2016 and March 2017, Vietnamese purchased about 5,689 residential properties in the US, double the number of transactions in the previous year. 

The total amount was an estimated $3 billion out of $153 billion worth of US residential property acquired by foreign investors during the same period.  (Non-resident foreign
buyers purchased $78.1 billion of property, while resident foreign buyers purchased $74.9 billion worth.)  Not surprisingly, based on where most Vietnamese-Americans live and other reasons, Vietnamese investors preferred California, Florida, and Texas. 

property2
Vietnam’s population of ultra-high-net-worth individuals has the highest growth rate in the world. Source: Knight Frank

Reasons include the following:

  • one of the fastest-growing economies in the world
  • the fastest-growing percentage of ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the world between now and 2026, according to the The Wealth Report 2017 by Knight Frank
  • the Vietnamese tendency to hedge their bets in the face of perceived or actual instability
  • the high number of Vietnamese young people studying in the US and the desire of many parents of means to buy a place for them to stay and as an investment
  • the relatively high number of EB-5 cases (related to the above)

MAA

 

Viet Nam Ranks 5th in Emigration to the United States

travel stateViet Nam ranks 5th in two US-related categories:  the number of its young people studying there as of last June and the number of its citizens who emigrated there in Fiscal Year 2017, which ended on 30 September 2017.  (Viet Nam is a “top ten” country in other categories, including EB-5 cases and US real estate purchases in 2016/17.)

Below is a list of the top 10 countries for US-bound immigration (PDF download).

  1. Mexico: 84,045
  2. Dominican Republic: 48,254
  3. China: 35,350
  4. Philippines: 30,410
  5. Viet Nam: 28,719
  6. India: 27,303
  7. Haiti: 16,694
  8. Jamaica: 13,695
  9. Bangladesh: 12,331
  10. Pakistan: 12,143

The breakdown for Viet Nam is as follows, along with an official definition of each category: 

Immediate relatives: 9,974  (Certain immigrants who because of their close relationship to U.S. citizens are exempt from the numerical limitations imposed on immigration to the United States. Immediate relatives are: spouses of citizens, children (under 21 years of age and unmarried) of citizens, and parents of citizens 21 years of age or older.

Special Immigrants: 53  A special immigrant is a person who qualifies for a green card (permanent residence) under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) special immigrant program. In order to apply for immigration documents under this status, an individual must fill out a petition documenting his or her circumstances and submit the petition to USCIS.

Family Preference: 17,991 U.S. immigration law allows certain foreign nationals who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card) based on specific family relationships.

Employment Preference: 665  Approximately 140,000 immigrant visas are available each fiscal year for aliens (and their spouses and children) who seek to immigrate based on their job skills. If you have the right combination of skills, education, and/or work experience and are otherwise eligible, you may be able to live permanently in the United States. There are five employment-based immigrant visa preferences, including the popular EB-5 immigrant investor program in which Viet Nam ranks a distant second to China. 

Diversity Immigrants: The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The number is 0 because Viet Nam has a high rate of emigration to the US.  

Finally, 36 visas were issued under the Vietnam Amerasian categoryImmigrant visas are issued to Amerasians under Public Law 100-202 (Act of 12/22/87), which provides for the admission of aliens born in Vietnam after January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976, if the alien was fathered by a U.S. citizen. Spouses, children, and parents or guardians may accompany the alien.  Of the estimated 50,000 Amerasian children born during the war, 21,000 of them and more than 55,000 family members were permitted to emigrate to the US under the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1987.  Only about 3% of Ameriasians in the US have found their fathers.  The rest are in Viet Nam, many in HCMC.  (Here’s a related story from 2015 and a more recent one about a father-daughter reunion.)

TOTAL:  28,719

The dynamics of push and pull are obvious here, given the fact that people from these countries represent large ethnic minority populations in the US.  For example, Mexican-Americans comprise 11.2% of the population.

Vietnamese immigrants are 5.1% of the worldwide total (559,536) with nearly as many Vietnamese moving to the US as immigrants from all of South America (30,242).  Vietnamese-Americans are the fourth-largest Asian American group after Chinese-, Indian-, and Filipino-Americans.  The US Census Bureau estimates the total population of Vietnamese-Americans (Việt kiều) to be just over 2 million, which is about 44% of the world’s overseas Vietnamese.

Where Do They Live?

California and Texas have the highest concentrations of Vietnamese-Americans with 40% and 12%, respectively.  Those states are also #1 and #2 in student enrollment with 6,171 in CA and 5,221 in TX, as of May 2017, according to the SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update, for a two-state total of 11,392.  This means that two states out of 50 and Puerto Rico, which had one (1) student from Viet Nam, hosted 38% of all Vietnamese students, at the end of the 2016/17 academic year. 

Another interesting observation is that the percentage of young Vietnamese studying in CA was significantly lower than the percentage of Vietnamese-Americans living in that state (20.38%), while in Texas it was slightly higher (17.24%).

Other states with sizable concentrations of Vietnamese-Americans are Washington (4%), Florida (4%), and Virginia (3%).  It’s probably not a coincidence that these are among the top 10 host states for Vietnamese students.  There are also significant numbers of Vietnamese-Americans in Atlanta and New York, among other cities.  

Vietnamese in the U.S. Fact Sheet

In its series on social and demographic trends in the US, the Pew Research Center has produced fact sheets on Asians in the US, including Vietnamese-Americans.  It includes fairly up-to-date information about population, English proficiency, length of time in country, educational attainment, poverty rate, demographics, and social class.  For example, you can see how Vietnamese-Americans fare when compared with all Asians in the US in median annual household income, as well as the same income for US born vs. foreign born.  (The overall US median household income was $56,516 that year.)

economics vn-am

What Does It All Mean?

There are estimated 96 million Vietnamese, which means that the emigration of 28,719 of them to the US, most from southern Viet Nam, is a drop in the statistical bucket.  In case you’re wondering, that’s .03% of the population. 

Why do they go?  There are several reasons, most related to the pull factor.  The most obvious one is that so many Vietnamese in parts of the country that were in the former Republic of Viet Nam have so many relatives in the US.  Others, some of which overlap, are the often mistaken belief that the grass is greener, marriage (arranged or based on love), and employment-based cases.

In the meantime, growing numbers of overseas Vietnamese are relocating to Viet Nam, most likely in the thousands not tens of thousands, some to join a dynamic and promising startup scene, others to do non-profit work and still others simply to retire in their homeland.  The Vietnamese government has taken a number of steps to make them feel more welcome, including dual citizenship and the right to buy property.  (Many of those who have no intention of returning home are sending billions of dollars home in the form of remittances.  Viet Nam ranks 9th in that particular category with about 50% of those transfers coming from the US.)

Taking Advantage of a Golden Opportunity:  They Did It for the Children

I know of one couple who emigrated to the US through the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) created in 1979 under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a way of allowing the immigration of Vietnamese affiliated with the Republic of Viet Nam government or military.  In this case, the man was a low-ranking soldier in the RVN army, like so many, and a farmer by trade. 

Why did they take advantage of the opportunity to emigrate?  Not because they were persecuted or discriminated against but as a way to give their children a better education and future.  Mission accomplished.  What are their future plans?  To return to Viet Nam for retirement because they really don’t like living in the US and they want to die and be buried in their hometown (quê hương).  Their children will likely remain.

BONUS:  There is Some Truth to This Particular Stereotype

It’s well-known that overseas Vietnamese and nail salons go hand in hand.  I’ve heard it used by consular officers as a reason why some student applicants are denied.   As the story goes, they say (“used to say” might be more accurate, since times have changed) that they plan to live with an aunt in San Jose and study at a local community college or university.  Said aunt just happens to own a nail salon that her niece will probably end up working in, illegally, of course.  It is a family business, after all.

In fact, according to the Wikipedia entry on Vietnamese-Americans and based on a reliable source,

Nail-salon work is skilled manual labor which requires limited English-speaking ability. Some Vietnamese Americans see the work as a way to accumulate wealth quickly, and many send remittances to family members in Vietnam. Vietnamese entrepreneurs from Britain and Canada have adopted the U.S. model and opened nail salons in the United Kingdom, where few had existed.

This trend occurs in Europe for the same reasons. Like the restaurant and other service sector businesses, labor costs are low and profit is high.  

MAA