Vietnamese Student (Mis)Perceptions of the USA

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Image courtesy of Nevada News & Views

I recently talked with a Vietnamese student who had studied in the US and was back home.  When I asked him about the experience of living there, one reply really stood out:  people are free and equal.  That answer jump-started my interior monologue, which quickly went into overdrive.  The first reply was Which people, in what ways, how, and why?

This response reminded me of the US party line, the stuff of cultural mythology, the American Dream, and all that jazz.  Such statements reflect 1) a lack of knowledge about the country before studying and living there, and 2) limited in country experience, regardless of how long the person is there.  It’s easy to hold false beliefs when one is sheltered (e.g., perhaps mostly Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American friends) and living in an echo chamber. 

This is not unlike many (most?) US Americans who are born into privilege and grow up thinking that the US is the land opportunity for everyone willing to work hard enough.  (There are millions of examples of people who are working very hard, as in multiple low-paying jobs, yet who continue to sink financially and in many other respects.) 

It also doesn’t take into account one’s social class, gender, or race.  Life is much better for people who look like me, i.e., white, and who had the kinds of advantages I had.  In other words, some US Americans are “freer” than others in the sense that they have more freedom of action, a greater chance to realize their potential, to find their ikigai, as it were. 

Since this is a blog post and not a feature article, a report, a book chapter, or a book (!), let me offer a few compelling examples that blow the notion that people (in the US) are free and equal out of the proverbial water. 

US life expectancy drops for second year in a row (22.12.17)

Extreme poverty returns to America (21.12.17) “We’re #1 in…” child poverty among peer countries.

Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined: Report (8.11.17)

The US has a lot of money, but it does not look like a developed country (10.3.17)

All of the above was happening before Trump declared an all-out war on virtually everyone who is not part of the financial elite. 

MAA

 

 

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Vietnamese Students Contribute Over $1 Billion to the US Economy

In 2016/17, Vietnamese students enrolled in US colleges and universities contributed $818 million to the US economy, according to the Open Doors 2017 report.  (Source:  US Department of Commerce)  Keep in mind that those data are from fall 2016 and are limited to higher education.

Let’s update and extrapolate using SEVIS data from December 2017.  This includes both higher education and secondary enrollment.  The latter refers to day and boarding schools.  And let’s use the same figure:  $36,456 per student.  

level-of-study-vn-12-17As of the end of 2017, there were 31,389 Vietnamese studying in the US.  Here’s the breakdown for the aforementioned categories:

  • Higher education:  23383 * $36,456 = $852,450,648 (Note:  This includes both undergraduate, graduate students and recent graduates with OPT status, taking into account that a sizable number of currently enrolled students at both levels receive varying levels of scholarship support.  Remember, this is about economic impact not the total amount being paid by Vietnamese parents for their children’s education and living costs in the US.)  
  • English language training:  2681 * $25,000 = $67,025,000  (This is a guesstimate, perhaps on the conservative side.) 
  • Secondary education:  4129 * $36,456 = $150,526,824  (I used the OD number.  This is a reasonable estimate knowing that many boarding schools are in the 40-55k range with day schools costing much less. (Feel free to question these figures, dear reader.  If I err, it is hopefully on the conservative side.)

Drum roll…  The total economic impact of Vietnamese students on the US economy is…   over $1 billion:  $1,070,002,472.  Now THAT’s significant economic impact.

This amount does not include other categories that involve Vietnamese nationals or their Vietnamese sponsors spending money in the US such as other vocational school (36), flight school (121), primary school (141), and other (898).  

The always popular issue of how much Vietnamese parents are spending on their children’s education and living expenses in the US is another matter.  One can assume that it’s a significant percentage of the total economic impact amount. 

Addendum:  The Vietnamese media routinely use the $3 billion figure when talking about how much parents spend on overseas study for their children.  Unlike fine wine, that number is not aging well with the passage of time.  In fact, the actual number is even higher, given the fact that there are more Vietnamese students than even studying abroad, including over 140,000 in the top five host countries alone:  1) Japan; 2) USA; 3) Australia; 4) China; and 5) the UK. 

MAA

“International Students Contribute to Our Economy & American Innovation”

This image, created by NAFSA:  Association of International Educators, a “non-profit professional organization for professionals in all areas of international education including education abroad advising and administration,” was recently posted on Facebook by a US higher education colleague. 

All compelling points with which I agree 100%.  In fact, they could create another graphic that lists more reasons for hosting international students and encouraging a certain percentage to remain, if they so desire.   

Here’s the problem though:  while this information appeals to reasonable and rational US Americans who either already have somewhat of a global outlook, or at least “get it” when it comes to the economics of hosting large numbers of international students, it falls on blind eyes and deaf ears when it comes to people like President Trump and many (most?) of his supporters. America First, remember?  Their words and actions, rather than making the US better than it is for all people, are accelerating its decline.

Why? Nativism and nationalism – in that order.  If you’re not sure what these words mean, don’t worry you’re in good company.  Many people with a Ph.D. after their name don’t know either.  Just read the articles linked from one or both of the words. 

MAA

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Fiscal Year 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report- Department of Homeland Security

DHS logoA colleague recently sent me this report with the above title.  (Thank you, K!)  Yeah, I know; it’s not most people’s idea of a good time but it is interesting to wonks like me who follow these trends in the field (and industry) of international education.  Information is power, right?  OK, if not power, then at least it has the potential to give you more insights and the ability to make more accurate predictions than a crystal ball.

Here’s an excerpt from the report about the purpose of providing this data, at least on an annual basis:  This report analyzes the overstay rates to provide a better understanding of those who overstay and remain in the United States beyond their period of admission with no evidence of an extension to their period of admission or adjustment to another immigration status.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has determined that there were 50,437,278 in-scope nonimmigrant admissions to the United States through air or sea POEs who were expected to depart in FY 2016, which represents the majority of annual nonimmigrant admissions. Of this number, DHS calculated a total overstay rate of 1.47 percent, or 739,478 individuals. In other words, 98.53 percent of the in-scope nonimmigrant visitors departed the United States on time and abided by the terms of their admission

There are two categories: total overstay rate and suspected overstay rate.  Think of the latter as the net version of the former.  As the report points out, its purpose is “to provide a better picture of those overstays who remain in the United States beyond their period of admission and for whom there is no identifiable evidence of a departure, an extension of period of admission, or transition to another immigration status.”  In other words, these are the people who have simply disappeared, presumably to surface later with legal status.  Or not.  

At the end of FY 2016, there were 628,799 Suspected In-Country Overstays. The overall Suspected In-Country Overstay rate for this type of traveler is 1.25% of the expected departures.  When you consider that over 50 million foreigner visitors entered the US in FY16 and that 98.75% of them did indeed return home, that’s not too shabby.

The report is broken down into “nonimmigrants admitted to the United States for business or pleasure, i.e., B1 and B2 visas, and student and exchange visitors (F, M, and J visas).  The average suspected in-country overstay rate for FY 2016, excluding Canada, Mexico, and students, was 1.90%. 

sample visaFor Viet Nam it was 3.40%, or 79% higher than the national average.

Student and Exchange Visitor Visas (F, M, J) Excluding Canada and Mexico

Just to give you an idea of how Viet Nam compares to many other countries with students studying in the US, here is a list of some with much higher overstay rates in descending order.  Asian countries are in navy blue.

  1. Eritrea: 75.21% (117)
  2. Burkina Faso: 46.78% (699)
  3. Chad: 36.77% (68)
  4. Congo (Kinshasa): 36.56% (517)
  5. Djibouti: 33.33% (21)
  6. Libya: 31.85% (1,036)
  7. Congo (Brazzaville): 23.88% (201)
  8. Equatorial Guinea: 20.42% (284)
  9. Côte d’Ivoire: 17.09% (755)
  10. Ethiopia: 21.71% (1,110)
  11. Fiji: 15.84% (101)
  12. Gabon: 23.40% (406)
  13. The Gambia: 29.08% (196)
  14. Benin: 31.25% (400)
  15. Cameroon: 28.68% (889)
  16. North Korea: 27.27% (11)
  17. Togo: 26.14% (176)
  18. Guinea: 26.12% (157)
  19. Central African Republic: 25.93% (127)
  20. Moldova: 25.49% (2,299)
  21. Nepal: 23.50% (2,873)
  22. Nigeria: 22.74% (8,034)
  23. Bhutan: 22.42% (165)
  24. Burundi: 20.96% (167)
  25. Somalia: 20.00% (25)
  26. Cabo Verde: 18.40% (125)
  27. Mali: 17.19% (349)
  28. Iraq: 16.54% (1,300)
  29. Afghanistan: 15.83% (556)
  30. Kyrgyzstan: 14.41% (666)
  31. Malawi: 14.40% (250)
  32. Tajikistan: 13.37% (486)
  33. Liberia: 13.30% (218)
  34. Ukraine: 12.90% (826)
  35. Senegal: 12.59% (657)
  36. Guinea-Bissau: 12.50% (8)
  37. Serbia: 12.46% (4,800)
  38. Kenya: 12.28% (2,326)
  39. Niger: 12.07% (174)
  40. Papua New Guinea: 12.03% (158)
  41. Tonga: 11.29% (176)
  42. Bangladesh: 11.03% (3,237)
  43. Macedonia: 10.98% (1,658)
  44. Uganda: 10.65% (3,273)
  45. Syria: 10.35% (599)
  46. Sudan: 10.30% (304)
  47. Rwanda: 9.73% (997)
  48. Haiti: 9.67% (982)
  49. Uzbekistan: 9.48% (1,181)
  50. Mongolia: 9.44% (2,399)
  51. Zambia: 9.42% (414)
  52. Mauritania: 9.40% (117)
  53. Timor-Leste: 9.38% (32)
  54. Turkmenistan: 9.16% (371)
  55. Maldives: 8.11% (74)
  56. Sri Lanka: 8.74% (1,774)
  57. Burma (Myanmar):  8.59% (1,036)
  58. Namibia: 8.63% (139)
  59. Albania: 8.34% (779)
  60. Viet Nam: 8.15% (14,878)

Several points stand out. 

  1. While Viet Nam is at the lower end of the spectrum among these 60 countries in terms of percentage, it has one of the highest suspected in-country overstay rates in Asia.  In terms of numbers, 1,213 young Vietnamese were out-of-status last year.  Compare that to China, which ranks first in the number of students it sends to the US with 360,334 last year.  The suspected in-country overstay rate was only 2.09%.  The days of the brain drain are clearly over.  It’s obvious that quite a few young Vietnamese are using the F-1 (in most cases) as a backdoor means of emigration.  (This assertion is also based on anecdotal evidence.)
  2. Many of these countries have relatively few students in the US, i.e., fewer than 500.
  3. Many of the countries are war-torn and/or desperately poor, due to war and other factors.

Keep in mind that this percentage is higher in some parts of Viet Nam than others, i.e., those with people who have relatives in the US, mostly in the former Republic of Viet Nam (South Vietnam).  These data are reported to the US Mission, the Consulate in HCMC, in particular, and could have an impact on consular officers’ decisions for applicants coming from areas with a higher overstay rate.

Note:  Whenever I deal with statistics, I’m often reminded of the following quote, which was popularized by Mark Twain, who attributed it to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  Not included in the above statistics are international students who remain in the country legally, e.g., through marriage or a work (H1-B) visa.  Thus, neither country really knows how many young Vietnamese come home after completing their studies and/or an Optional Practical Training (OPT) work experience on a F-1 visa.  Another unknown variable is the number of graduates to move to a third country for study or work.    

MAA

 

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

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