Time & Money for Fake Universities But Not Routine Data Updates

NOTE: Here’s the correct link to my latest University World News essay, Vietnamese student enrolment in the US holds steady. Mea culpa!

The clock is stuck at March 2019. While information may not always be power, it certainly is helpful in professional decision-making. The last SEVIS by the Numbers update was 10 months ago. I have sent no fewer than six (6) emails to our friendly colleagues at the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is part of the US Department of Homeland Security. While their responses are very timely and I give them credit for that, I’m reminded of Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football – for those of you familiar with this US cultural reference. I’ve felt let down since late last summer.

In the back of my mind is the recent faux University of Farmington case and, before that, the University of Northern New Jersey. DHS via ICE has enough time and money to create fake universities in order to apprehend (think “entrap”) a few “bad (international student) apples” but not enough of either to produce timely and important statistical international student updates. Among all of the foreign government data that I monitor on a regular basis, the US government is by far the worst. Period. End of discussion. (In case you’re wondering, Australia is the best.)

Yes, there’s the IIE Open Doors report, which is unveiled with great fanfare and like clockwork the first Monday of every annual International Education Week, but those statistics are already old news the second they’re released because the data are from the previous fall.

In the case of Viet Nam, my primary focus, I’m able to deduce trends by looking at the monthly F-1 (student) visa issuance updates on the US State Department website, not to mention anecdotal evidence. However, there is no substitute for timely official information.

The latest email, which I received on 13 December 2019, stated the following:

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your inquiry, but we still have no public update here. SEVP is currently still in the process of clearing data for upload on Study in the States’ Mapping SEVIS by the Numbers tool.

As mentioned, we will be sure to reach out and let you know when this changes. SEVP will also publicly announce when the annual SEVIS by the Numbers report is released, so stay tuned on our social media channels and blog!

Please reach out with any additional questions.  

Thank you,

SEVP Strategic Communications

I have a confession to make. I even emailed Rachel Canty, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) deputy assistant director (DAD), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), my 7th email. I received the same form response on the same day. Again, an “A” for timeliness but an “F” for results.

It’s now 13 January 2020 and I’m still waiting. My guess is I’m not the only one. If you’d like to reach out to SEVP Strategic Communications, feel free to drop them a line at SEVPCommunications[AT]ice.dhs.gov. Good luck!

Shalom (שלום), MAA