Reality Check/When One Government Speaks with Two Voices

Below is my response to a 23 June Chronicle of Higher Education article by Beth McMurtrie entitled Colleges Are Warned Against a ‘Gold Rush’ Pursuit of International Studentsabout how to better promote American higher education abroad, discussed at a recent three-day EducationUSA conference.

This may be difficult to comprehend in Washington, D.C. and its corridors of power (e.g., the Department of State), but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of students and parents in Vietnam and other countries turn – not to EducationUSA advising centers – but to education consultancies, or agents, for information and assistance.
The former are charged with the task of representing all of U.S. higher education not individual schools.  As such, the services they provide are valuable but very basic; the amount of time advisers are able to spend with any one student or parent is necessarily limited.  It is therefore in the interests of all concerned to take steps to professionalize this largely unregulated industry in Vietnam and other key (e.g., top twenty) “places of origin.”
While Ms. Romanowski’s desire to reach out to higher education associations is commendable, she should also focus on building bridges and achieving consensus with colleagues in another important department that promotes US imports and exports, including higher education.
The ultimate goal should be a government that speaks with one voice and pursues a unified policy rather than the current situation, which is more akin to bureaucratic internecine warfare.  The alternative is to maintain the status-quo and the current impasse indefinitely to the detriment of the U.S. higher education community and the international students it wishes to attract.

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