Universities need to develop strategies to improve experiences of international students

Below is a summary of some important research from the blog of “Dr. Education,” aka  Dr. Rahul Choudaha:  DrEducation: International Higher Education Blog -Trends, insights and strategies on internationalization of higher education.  (Posted on 30.6.14)

Dr. Choudaha is the chief knowledge officer for World Education Services (WES) and the lead researcher for the report.  It reveals a wide variation in perceptions of why international undergraduate students in the U.S. leave their institutions of first enrollment before completing their degree.   (My italics.) The study, entitled U.S. Study of International Undergraduate Retention: Implications and Gaps between International Education Professionals and International Students, was sponsored by ELS Education Services, Inc.

Source: NAFSA research on international student research
Source: NAFSA research on international student research

One of the key takeaways of the research was “that poor retention is a function of the mismatch between expectations of students prior to enrollment and the actual experience of students once they are on campus.” Sheila Schulte of NAFSA noted that “The three main implications from the study that can help institutions set transparent expectations with international students are: understanding the diverse needs of the international student body, coordinating internationalization efforts across campus, and investing in programs and services that improve student experiences.”

Here are the related links covering the research:

Infographic on NAFSA International Student Retention Research
Why They Stay or Leave, Inside Higher Ed

“International Universities – My Visit to Vietnam”

Below is a post from Kurt Linberg’s blog, Higher education: Are we making the grade?  Dr. Linberg visited Vietnam last year as a member of a delegation from The College of St. Scholastica (Duluth, MN), where he was Dean of the School of Business and Technology.  (The other members were Dr. Larry Goodwin, President, and Mr. Thomas Homan, Director of International Education.)

International Universities – My Visit to Vietnam (24.1.14)

When I look over my four years at the College of St. Scholastica, I will likely never forget my trip to Vietnam. The St. Scholastica President, the Director of International Recruitment, and I were immersed into all aspects of Vietnam education and culture. We visited with high school students, high school teachers, college students, college professors and administrators, local business folks, and government officials. We also enjoyed the food, the people, and the culture. I left with a deep appreciation for the Vietnam students’ dedication for learning.

Here is a summary of our trip to Vietnam from the colleague that was instrumental in making this trip such a success, Mark Ashwill.

Thanks Mark!

Identifying and Analyzing your Institution’s Marketing Opportunity

intead logoBelow is a repost of an Intead Insight by Ben Waxman & Michael Waxman-Lenz  about a presentation made at the recent Intead NYC Global Marketing Workshop.

Chinese students submit their SAT scores to twice as many colleges than international students from other countries. What does that mean for your yield enrollment marketing and your yield projections?

Elevator Summary

  • International student mobility expected to increase from 4.3M in 2011 to 8.5M students by 2025
  • On average, Chinese students submit their SAT scores to 12 universities, Indian students to 8 and Canadians to 5
  • Check out College Board’s web traffic to understand the most attractive US university brands for Indian and Chinese students. Interestingly, 6 of the top 10 most reviewed profiles are the same choices for students from both countries
  • SAT registrations and student enrollment from China grew by 64% from 2011 to 2013. From India the registrations grew 36%, while Indian student enrollment declined 9% during that 2 year period.

Clay Hensley from College Board and Christine Farrugia from the Institute of International Education presented at our INTEAD Global Marketing Workshop for Academic Leaders last week. They provided a highly informative overview from their rich internal and external data sets.

Chart 1 (below) displays the average number of SAT scores sent per student by country. The numbers show a remarkable difference with clear implications for your school’s yield management after admitting students from different countries. On average, Chinese students submit scores to 12 universities, while a student from the United Arab Emirates, UK or Nigeria will submit less than five. You notice that the difference does not appear income-based.

Frequency of SAT Score Sends Per Student

[Vietnam ranks 4th after China, South Korea and Taiwan with 8.68 SAT scores sent per student.]

Chart 2 is a broad observation of the appeal of the US education super brands around the world. College Board showed the top 10 most viewed university profiles by students from India and China. The data is based on visits to their BigFuture website. Six of the top 10 universities are identical across these two countries and include Stanford, Harvard, UCLA, Berkeley, NYU and Cornell. Indian students have a preference for technical programs and so the inclusion of MIT and Cal Tech may not surprise.

A large share of Chinese students also view two Midwestern universities: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Michigan. While the other 4,500 US academic institutions do not have the global name recognition, the entire US university system benefits from the “halo effect” of these academic “super brands.”

The reality is, these super brands can only accommodate a very small number of students overall, much less international students. Their attractiveness increases US competitiveness overall as the US becomes the chosen destination and other schools have the opportunity to be considered. As online programs gain further attention, these global super brands will increase their reach and brand position around the world.

The corresponding data for India show a 28% increase in web visitors, and 36% SAT registration growth, while the enrolled students from India declined by 9% during the period from 2011 to 2013.

So the intention and interest to study in the US seems to have continued to grow while the realization of that aspiration lagged. What do you think are the main reasons for that gap? Post a comment below this blog to engage in the discussion.

Much productive work can be done by all of us if Clay and Christine’s hopeful outlook is correct for continued growth in student mobility. They quoted a potential group of 8M students studying outside their home country by 2025, up from 4M in 2011.



“Vietnamese Americans should come and live in Vietnam full time”

Interesting, insightful and heartfelt post by Minh, a HCMC-based blogger at Tech In Asia.

Introduction:  I’m a Vietnamese American. I’ve been living in Vietnam for seven years now. And in that time, I’ve only come back to the States a total of four times. Each time was less than a month. In other words, I’ve been living in this country full-time, non-stop. And if you’re a Vietnamese American, old or young, first generation or second generation, I think you should live here too.


Conclusion:  P.S. On a personal note, living in Vietnam has been one of my most transformative and meaningful periods of my life. Teaching in the countryside to young university students made me so happy sometimes that it made me cry. And there were also some really fun inspiring moments, like when Vietnam was winning soccer games during the regional Tiger Cup and everybody “đi bão”. To see a country shift and change through the eyes of a foreigner is a privilege. Being in close contact with Vietnamese people who have so much hope for their own personal and country’s future is awesome.

Follow this link to read everything in between.

At 30,000 Feet All I See Are Alumni

Below is a guest post from Marguerite Dennis, who has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts.  Those colleges and universities that have dedicated and active alumni certainly have a competitive advantage over those that don’t in terms of student recruitment and exploring new opportunities. 

graduation_000-300x259Over the course of my administrative career I had the opportunity to be responsible for not only the enrollment and retention of students but also for the alumni and fundraising programs at my university.  This “30,000 foot” view allowed me to integrate the enrollment and retention management systems with alumni and fundraising activities.  While this administrative responsibility is not for the faint of heart and certainly would not work at most schools, I would like you to read what I was able to integrate as Vice President for Development and Enrollment. Something you read may spark a discussion with other administrators at your college or university who share the responsibilities of enrolling a class, progressing that class from first to second year, cultivating enrolled students to become loyal and engaged alumni and setting the stage for successful fundraising campaigns.

Consider the following:

A school’s alumni program should begin before first year students register for classes.  I was fortunate to be a part of creating a convocation for all new and transfer students, parents, faculty and administrators.  All first year students, prior to the start of classes, were gathered into a large auditorium, black graduation-like gowns draped over their arms.  After short speeches by the president, deans and a graduate of the school, the students were asked to rise, take an oath and put the black gowns over their street clothes, symbolizing the time, in four years, when they would graduate and become alumni. The symbolism was not lost on anyone in the room, especially parents.  The students entered as individuals from all over the country and the world. They came in all shapes and sizes, wearing designer clothes and/or jeans. They all left looking alike with high hopes for a successful collegiate career.

Fast forward to the week of graduation. All of the seniors are formally inducted into the alumni association at a breakfast and given a certificate for one free continuing education course.  They have already received a list of all of the on-line courses they would be eligible to take at a discounted price. Again the symbolism: the first communication with graduates is not to ask for a donation but to give them a free or discounted course. All of the graduates are given the contact information for the alumni club in their part of the country or the world as well as a list of all former graduates in their area. They know the name of their class agent and have the contact information.

Deans and directors of admission, as well as student service deans, have the ability to inform the alumni office staff of those students who are actively involved in clubs and organizations. Does your alumni staff participate in enrollment activities organized by the dean of admission or the vice president of enrollment management? Does your school have an alumni staff member regularly attend student services events and programs?  These kinds of events have the potential to identify future class agents — students who will extend their school loyalty beyond the campus and help to create or populate alumni clubs.

This kind of cultivation should take place over a four year period, not at the time of graduation.  What it means is that administrators who do not usually cross paths or functions – -enrollment management, student services and alumni– meet regularly to discuss engaged students and plan synergistic events. For example: Can the alumni office provide the deans of admission with a list of graduates in the area who are willing to speak or meet with prospective parents and students? Are the results of a recent alumni survey available for prospective families to review online?  Is there a list of alumni who will provide internship opportunities to enrolled students? And how is all of that information looped back to the admission office?  If today’s prospective family is seeking a tangible return on their educational investment at your school, information from alumni is essential.

The following are some questions you may want to ask your alumni staff:

How does the alumni office communicate with the career counseling staff about the list of alumni internships opportunities available to them?

Does the alumni staff work with deans and faculty chairpersons to identify outstanding students in specific majors?

Does the alumni staff regularly meet with the athletic department to identify the most engaged student-athletes? Does the alumni office staff regularly attend athletic events?

Has the alumni staff conducted focus groups of junior and senior students to learn what alumni events would most likely appeal to young graduate?

It may be Facebook and Twitter today but what is the collaboration between the alumni office and the IT staff to identify the best way to technologically stay connected to graduates?

Does the alumni office staff conduct surveys of recent graduates? How is that information used? Who receives the results?

I was not enthusiastic when the president asked me to assume the responsibilities of alumni and fundraising and still maintain the overall responsibility for enrollment and retention. I thought I would be spread too thin and not be able to do a credible job.  What I learned is that if you have a solid marketing background you can market to both prospective students and alumni using similar skills.  Having “the whole ball of wax” certainly had its advantages. This administrative structure allowed for collaboration that did not previously exist.  It helped with fundraising. It centralized functions and contributed to a transparent and holistic management of students from pre-enrollment to post-graduation. It eliminated certain silos. It brought a disparate group of staff together to work cooperatively.

In an environment when presidents, provosts and chief financial officers are struggling to create new business models, it can only help to look at the current organizational chart with an eye to the future.  This is one suggestion. There are many others.

FSO Michael T. Sestak Pleads Guilty in Visa Fraud-Bribery Case, Faces 19-24 Years in Prison

Reposted from cropped-diplopndit_banner2012_-900x257_b– Domani Spero

On November 6, USDOJ announced that Michael T. Sestak, the former Nonimmigrant Visa Section Chief at the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City had pleaded guilty to “receiving more than $3 million in bribes” in exchange for U.S. visas.  The Government alleged that the visa scheme had netted more than $9 million in bribes (see related posts below) and that Mr. Sestak had personally received over $3 million in proceeds of the conspiracy, which he laundered through China into Thailand. No sentencing date has been set but Mr. Sestak faces 19-24 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Related posts:


WASHINGTON  A U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Michael T. Sestak, 42, pled guilty today to conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering charges in a scheme in which he accepted more than $3 million in bribes to process visas for non-immigrants seeking entry to the United States.

The guilty plea, which took place in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service Director Gregory B. Starr.

Sestak pled guilty before the Honorable John D. Bates to one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery and visa fraud and to defraud the United States, bribery of a public official, and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from illegal activity. No sentencing date was set. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the applicable range for the offenses is 235 to 293 months in prison.

Under the plea agreement, Sestak has agreed to the forfeiture of the proceeds of the crimes, which includes the sale of nine properties that he purchased in Thailand with his ill-gotten gains. He also has agreed to cooperate in a continuing federal investigation.

“Today Michael Sestak admitted taking millions of dollars in bribes to issue visas to allow nearly 500 foreign nationals to enter the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Machen.  “This Foreign Service Officer corrupted the integrity of a process designed to screen visitors to the United States, a process that obviously has implications for our national security.  His motivation for betraying his oath of office was cold, hard cash, as he personally received more than $3 million in this visa-for-cash scam, much of which he funneled into the purchase of nine properties in Thailand.  Mr. Sestak has now accepted responsibility for his conduct and is cooperating with federal law enforcement in this continuing investigation.”

“The Department of State became aware of potential visa improprieties in Vietnam and immediately referred the allegations to the Diplomatic Security Service (DS) to investigate, said Director Starr, of the Diplomatic Security Service. “DS worked collaboratively with the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs to identify irregularities in the visa process which allowed agents and consular officials to pursue investigative leads and develop the evidence which led to Mr. Sestak’s guilty plea today.  This case demonstrates how cooperation with DS partners in the region allowed the Department of Justice to pursue charges where Vietnamese citizens were victimized by individuals guided by greed.”

Sestak was arrested on May 13, 2013, and has been in custody ever since. Four others have been charged with taking part in the conspiracy. They include Binh Vo, 39, and his sister, Hong Vo, 27, both American citizens who had been living in Vietnam; Binh Vo’s wife, Anhdao Dao Nguyen, 30, a Vietnamese citizen; and Truc Tranh Huynh, 29, a Vietnamese citizen.

Hong Vo was arrested in May 2013 and Huynh was arrested the following month. Binh Vo was arrested in September 2013. Nguyen remains at large, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.  Huynh pled guilty on Oct. 16, 2013, to one count of visa fraud and is awaiting sentencing. Binh Vo and Hong Vo have pled not guilty to charges and are held without bond pending trial.

Sestak was the Non-Immigrant Visa Chief in the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from August 2010 to September 2012.  His responsibilities included reviewing visa applications, conducting in-person interviews of visa applicants, and issuing visas when appropriate. While employed at the State Department, Sestak held a sensitive position.

In pleading guilty, Sestak admitted that he and Binh Vo met in Ho Chi Minh City in 2010 and began a personal friendship. They ultimately came up with a plan to obtain money in exchange for facilitating the approval of non-immigrant visas from Vietnam to the United States. Sestak conspired with other U.S. citizens and Vietnamese citizens who worked to recruit customers to the visa scheme. Before they appeared at the consulate for visa interviews, Sestak would be informed of the identities of foreign nationals who agreed to pay money in exchange for obtaining visas. He then attempted to issue a visa to each foreign national who had agreed to pay for obtaining a visa, often disregarding the veracity of the information on the application.

Sestak admitted that between February 2012 and September 2012, he caused visas to be approved for people whose applications were part of the scheme.  Payments made by applicants to the conspirators in exchange for visas ranged from $15,000 to $70,000.  Many of the individuals who received visas had been previously denied visas for a variety of reasons.

The entire scheme generated at least $9,780,000.  Of this, Sestak personally received over $3 million in proceeds of the conspiracy, which he laundered through China into Thailand. In an attempt to hide the illegal proceeds of the scheme, Sestak purchased nine real estate properties in Thailand worth over $3 million.  As part of his plea agreement, Sestak agreed to sell these properties and forfeit the proceeds in order to satisfy a portion of the money judgment of at least $6 million that will be entered against him.

Looking forward to hearing what happens to Mr. Sestak’s alleged co-conspirators.  And may his cooperation with the continuing investigation results in tracking down all the fraudulent visa cases he issued and subsequent deportation of those involved.

Also, I don’t think we’ve ever seen the maximum penalty of 24 years among the rotten FSO cases we’ve reviewed.  One of the more notorious visa fraud scandal involving an FSO was that of Thomas Patrick Carroll, a former vice consul at US Embassy Georgetown in Guyana who was arrested in 2000.  He was arrested for selling 800 visas at reportedly US$10,000 – US$15,000 each.  Mr. Carroll did not invest his ill gotten wealth in real estate but according to reports kept some of it in gold bars.  The court originally sentenced Mr. Carroll to 21 years imprisonment in 2002. The prison term was reduced on appeal to 11 years and he was released from prison this past summer.

Mitch Gordon of Go Overseas shares his entrepreneurial journey

Reposted from DrEducation: International Higher Education Blog

Mitch Gordon, Co-founder & CEO, Go Overseas

Mitch Gordon is from upstate NY and lived in Taipei, Taiwan for four years before moving to San Francisco, where he currently resides. Mitch is an entrepreneur, starting a number of companies in the field of travel & education. His most recent company, Go Overseas, has quickly become the most trusted resource on the internet for researching study, teach and volunteer abroad programs around the world. Mitch is also currently the Entrepreneur in Residence at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business/ SkyDeck Incubator. When he’s not working you can find him playing sports, hiking, traveling or reading.

Rahul- What are the key services your organization provides? How would you describe your target customer and the unmet needs you are serving?
Mitch- Go Overseas is a review and community site for programs abroad. We’re the Yelp/ Airbnb for programs abroad. We list every study, volunteer, teach, internship & Gap Year program in the world with ratings, reviews, alumni interviews and other helpful information. Our mission is to help people make more informed and educated decisions when choosing a program. As anyone who has ever searched for a program can tell you, there’s a ton of different information out there. It’s really hard to tell the reputable, honest organizations from the fly-by-night programs. We bring transparency to the research process and help people find a program that’s right for them. Because people who use Go Overseas feel more comfortable and confident in choosing a program, we encourage a lot more people to spend meaningful time abroad. That’s a really important part of our mission statement and something we believe passionately in. If everyone spent meaningful time abroad, the world would be a better, more understanding place. Not to say that there is anything wrong with a beach vacation. There’s room for that too, but cultural exchange can be life changing. That’s our mission: For everyone in the world to spend significant time abroad on a meaningful program. We have ambitious goals here!

Rahul- How did the business idea originate? What was the turning point that made you take the plunge?
Mitch- I think the best business ideas come from trying to solve a problem in your own life. Go Overseas solved a problem for me. When I graduated, I wanted to teach abroad. It was nearly impossible to be sure if I would end up at a good, caring school. It took a huge leap of faith. For that exact reason many, many people decide not to go on a program. That feeling of uncertainty stayed with me for a long time. I had a great year teaching English and studying Chinese in Taiwan. But I thought there must be a better way. Go Overseas was borne out of my spending a lot of time thinking about this problem!
As for taking the plunge: Making the decision to start your own business is an incredibly stressful feeling. For me, I had a lot of support from friends. And my co-founders have been with me every step of the way. I’m a huge believer in starting a business with a co-founder. If the chemistry is right, you’ll get a lot farther as a team than you would individually. I’m also lucky in the sense that Go Overseas isn’t my first company. It does get easier, mostly because I was prepared for the uncertainty and risk involved. Starting a business is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I always encourage others to take the leap. It’s worth it, even if the business doesn’t work. You’ll learn an incredible amount from the journey and that knowledge will help in whatever you do, for the rest of your life.

Rahul- What were a couple of key hurdles in building the organization? How did you overcome them?
Mitch- More important than anything else: You have to bring on the right people. I got lucky. My co-founders, Andrew Dunkle & Tucker Hutchinson are amazing people who challenge me every day. Our skill sets really compliment each other. The rest of our staff is also amazing, I learn from them all the time. Another key is patience. Businesses never turn out exactly the way you envisioned them the day you launched. You will change and pivot often along the way. Flexibility is absolutely vital. The best entrepreneurs focus on solving the problem and are continuously flexible in how they do so. We made a lot of mistakes, but we were never afraid to take a step back and make hard decisions. We’ve built a very flat hierarchical organizational structure. Everyone’s thoughts count equally and we focus on data whenever possible, rather than on emotion or opinions. I’d like to think we have a company culture that encourages creativity and personal ownership. When you give staff the opportunity to learn and grow, the company will always benefit.

Rahul- How do you see your organization evolving next three-five years in the context of customer and sector trends?
Mitch- We’ve grown so much in the last year. We’re now the clear leader in our field, in terms of overall traffic, reviews, etc. With that comes responsibility to both our users & clients. We take that very seriously. With that in mind, we have some great projects on the way. For example, we’re very much focused on increasing the level of transparency across our field. I think that’s absolutely critical, and the students & volunteer, etc. deserve that level of transparency.
We’ll be launching the High School Abroad section of our site by September 2013 and more resources will soon follow. There are also a number of fun projects we’re working on. As I mentioned earlier, we have an important mission: To encourage everyone in the world to spend meaningful time abroad. We’re very far from accomplishing that at the moment. Plenty to do, which is exciting for us!

Rahul- Based on your experiences, what are two lessons you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of international education?
Mitch- First, the most important step is to just jump off the cliff and get started. Once you’re in it, you’ll figure things out. Surround yourself with mentors and advisors who can support you through the ups and downs. If possible, find mentors/advisors who have experience in the world of international education.
Second, have patience. Actually, let me phrase that differently: Have absolutely no patience with getting things done. However, have a lot of patience when it comes to how you measure “success”. It always takes longer than you think. Most businesses aren’t profitable until after year 3. The exceptions to this only prove the rule. Too many businesses throw in the towel after year 1 or 2. If you’re seeing positive momentum, stick with it.