O Canada! The Vietnamese Student Pivot to the Great White North

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It appears that the bloom is temporarily off the red, white, and blue rose for growing numbers of Vietnamese parents and students. For the first time ever, there are almost 15,000 Vietnamese students in Canada, nearly half as many as in the US. Vietnamese students had the highest percentage increase in 2017 at 89%, making Viet Nam the fastest growing market in the country. What steps can Canadian institutions take to build on this success in the immediate future?

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I recently had the chance to speak to a group of Canadian colleagues at a well-attended general session at the 2018 CBIE (Canadian Bureau for International Education) annual conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada about two of my favorite topics, Viet Nam and Vietnamese student recruitment.

The paragraph above in italics is the abstract.  As I mentioned, my April 2018 University World News article entitled Vietnamese students look at the US and head north (editor’s title) was the inspiration for this session.  The focus was on steps that Canadian institutions can take to build on this tremendous success in the years to come.  We had a lively discussion with lots of questions but, unfortunately, too little time to respond to all of them, as is usually the case at these conferences.  

IMG_6680Thanks for CBIE for giving us the opportunity to speak to Canadian secondary, college, university and ESL colleagues about this important and timely topic.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Postscript:  At another session I briefly attended, which turned out to be a de facto sponsored one (the reason I left early), based on how many times one presenter mentioned his company and its wonderful products and services, said presenter – in the spirit of Schadenfreude – lobbed the following rhetorical cheap shot at the mostly Canadian audience in the hope of scoring a few brownie points with the home team at the expense of US colleagues:  Our neighbors to the South are dying.  While dramatic, that is hardly the case.  And while the US has seen a decrease in the number of newly enrolled students from abroad and faces many challenges, it remains the world’s leading host of international students.  For its part, Viet Nam ranks 5th among all sending countries with 29,788 students in the US at all levels, according to the latest (8-18) SEVIS numbers

 

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Fewer US Student Visas Issued in Viet Nam in FY18

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In the 2018 fiscal year, ending on 30 September 2018, US student (F-1) visas issued to Vietnamese students declined by 971, or 5.7%, over the previous year.  Below are the monthly stats starting in October 2017.  

October 2017:  275

November 2017:  364

December 2017:  1299

January 2018:  1165

February 2018:  207

March 2018:  207

April 2018:  186

May 2018: 1110

June 2018: 3147

July 2018: 4942 (+656)

August 2018: 2754

September 2018:  405

16,061  (17,032)

– 971 (-5.7%)

This is likely reflected in the modest decrease of Vietnamese students from December 2017 to August 2018 and related to the shift to Canada that I discussed in this April 2018 University World News article.  

All things considered and compared to most of the other top 10 sending countries, Viet Nam is doing quite well in terms of interest in study in the USA and enrollment.  (As of August 2018, there were 29,788 Vietnamese students at all levels in the US, most in higher education.  Viet Nam ranks 5th among all sending countries.)  This is in stark contrast to the rhetorical cheap shot that a colleague from a well-known company lobbed at a recent international conference in a lame attempt to pander to a largely Canadian audience:  “Our neighbors to the south are dying.”  Hardly, in a word.

Source:  Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Latest IIE Open Doors Data Reveal Shift in Vietnamese Major Preferences in the US

open-doors-report-on-international-educational-exchange-46Below is a list of majors – in descending order – that Vietnamese students chose in the 2017/18 academic year.  Interestingly, there was a decrease in the percentage studying business/management, down from 30.9% the previous year.  This reflects growing interest in non-business majors and perhaps, quite possibly, the dawning realization that one doesn’t need to study business to do business.  

In addition, there were more students majoring in math/computer science (+2.1%), engineering (+1%), and the physical/life sciences (+1.3%), and fewer (-.3%) enrolled in intensive English programs. 

Business/Management:  27%

Other Fields of Study:  15.9%

Math/Computer Science:    13.1%

Engineering:    11%

Physical/Life Sciences:    8.8%

Intensive English:    5.1%

Social Sciences:    5%

Health Professions:    4.6%

Fine/Applied Arts:    3.4%

Undeclared  3.3%

Humanities:    1.7%

Education:    1%

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Water Torture, DC-Style

While the US president lurches from one shit storm to the next, his mouth a fount of filth and lies, his mind a roiling cauldron of chaos, and The White House in a perennial state of (crazy) crisis, there are some nameless yet busy little beavers working in the trenches of the vast federal bureaucracy in DC carrying out the Supreme Leader’s anti-foreign, anti-international, anti-US MAGA agenda with a vengeance.  

The policy proposals trickling out of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security, remind me of water torture – not to be confused with waterboarding, made (more) infamous by the Bush/Cheney administration.  The former is a form of torture in which the victim is exposed to the incessant dripping of water on the head or to the sound of dripping.   

Are those heartfelt expressions of gratitude I hear coming from other countries that host large numbers of Vietnamese and other international students?  Canada says THANK YOU, Australia says THANK YOU, etc., ad nauseam.  Sadly, I don’t see anyone or any entity with any appreciable influence jamming their transmission.  DC continues to burn and no one’s called 911 yet.  (Maybe the new Congress in 2019?)

Here are the latest proposed changes:  

  1. Fixed Maximum Terms for Student Visas
  2. Proposed Change to Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

What’s next, eliminate the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program because it takes jobs away from ‘Muricans? Shut down the H1B work visa program for the same reason?  While they’re at it, why not just throw the baby out with the bathwater and shove a dagger in the heart of the EB-5 program, which has brought in billions of dollars in low-interest money for a variety of construction projects?  

Each proposal, some more damaging than others, creates yet another disincentive to study in the US or even visit the country as a tourist or businessperson, not to mention other “negatives” like the latest mass shooting du jour.  Each that relates somehow to the F-1 is just more chipping away at the edifice that is study in the USA.  It reminds me of the expression No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse.   

The fat lady hasn’t sung yet – not by a long shot.  Look forward to more drip, drip, drip, drip.  Sorry I don’t have more upbeat news to share with you, dear reader, but the truth trumps spin any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Financial Aid for Vietnamese Students?

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If your institution awards financial aid to Vietnamese students, I hope your approach is of the “trust but verify” variety.  Not all parents and students are honest, and Viet Nam is no exception.  Many people of means are happy to game the system and accept financial aid, if they can get it.

I remember a story about a highly selective liberal arts college in the US, which shall remain unnamed to protect the victimized, that awarded a generous financial aid package to a Vietnamese student.  Once said student showed up on campus, other Vietnamese knew that her family was rich and that the school had wasted valuable financial aid funding on an undeserving student.  The result was loss of institutional face and resources that could have helped a deserving student.  

Another more recent story is about a state university that automatically awarded a certain amount of financial aid to ALL Vietnamese students, as if all Vietnamese were poor and deserved it.  No due diligence.  Apply, get admitted and, bingo!, you’re golden.  Again, a waste of financial aid dollars that could have gone to qualified and deserving students.

What To Do?

How to screen students?  I remember working with one boarding school that offered a fabulous scholarship at their school and an undergraduate education at any university in the world.  They were looking specifically for an economically disadvantaged yet high-achieving Vietnamese high school student.  The selection process included sending staff to the finalists homes to interview them and their parents, and also to make sure they weren’t living in a million-dollar home or driving a luxury automobile.  Seeing is believing, to a certain extent, and it worked.

This due diligence is likely to incur an additional cost, given the staff time involved.  That’s something institutions should keep in mind. 

Some colleagues attempt to obtain this information from the education agents they work with.  That requires a high degree of trust, which is not always present.  

The safer and less costly alternative is to stick to merit-based scholarships that are linked to objective criteria such as standardized test scores, high school GPAs, and interviews.  The one drawback is that urban students from higher social classes disproportionately benefit from this approach.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

P.S.:  I wrote about this issue three years ago.  Given what I’ve heard recently from various colleagues, it’s worth revisiting.  

US Visa Overstays: Is the Sky Falling?

uscis_logo-white-backgroundThe Trump administration recently proposed (yet another) new rule related to nonimmigrant, including student, visas.  This one, if approved, will establish a maximum period of authorized stay for international students and other holders of certain nonimmigrant visas.  Why?  Is there something broken that needs to be fixed?  Are the overstay rates breaking new records?  Do the naughty few who overstay their official welcome represent a danger to US national security?  Can’t the system deal with them using existing rules, regulations, and laws?

One of the fears is that this new rule could make it harder for US colleges and universities to recruit international students in what is already an exceedingly challenging and often exasperating environment.  

More specifically, the proposed rule would modify the period of authorized stay for certain categories of nonimmigrants traveling to the United States from “duration of status” (D/S) and to replace such with a maximum period of authorized stay, and options for extensions, for each applicable visa category.  The Statement of Need reads as follows:  The failure to provide certain categories of nonimmigrants with specific dates for their authorized periods of stay can cause confusion over how long they may lawfully remain in the United States and has complicated the efforts to reduce overstay rates for nonimmigrant students. The clarity created by date-certain admissions will help reduce the overstay rate.  

Since the devil is usually in the details and I’m an academic by training, I decided to take a few precious minutes out of my life and have a look at the latest Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fiscal Year 2017 Entry/Exit Overstay Report (PDF download).  Unless you’re a glutton for bureaucratic punishment, the DHS press release from 7 August 2018 should suffice.  

The report provides data on departures and overstays for foreign visitors to the US who entered as nonimmigrants through an air or sea Port of Entry (POE) and who were expected to depart in FY17.  The report includes temporary workers and their families, students, exchange visitors, temporary visitors for pleasure and business, and other nonimmigrant classes of admission.  

What were the overall results for FY17?  Not too shabby.  DHS determined that there were 52,656,022 in-scope nonimmigrant admissions to the United States through air or sea POEs with expected departures occurring in FY 2017.  (This represents the vast majority of all nonimmigrant admissions.)  DHS calculated a total overstay rate of 1.33%, or 701,900 overstay events.  As of the end of FY17,  there were 606,926 Suspected In-Country Overstays.  The overall Suspected In-Country Overstay rate was 1.15% of the expected departures.  

Among 1,662,369 F, M, or J visa holders,  4.15% stayed beyond the authorized window for departure at the end of their program.  The suspected in-country overstay rate for all three visa categories was 2.35%, including 2.25% for F, 2.36% for M, and 2.59% for J visas.  

Note:  An individual who is a suspected in-country overstay has no recorded departure, while an out-of-country overstay has a recorded departure that occurred after their lawful admission period expired.  In other words, the former are still floating around the US somewhere, while the latter left, albeit belatedly.  

Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill?

Here are the FY17 overstay rates for nonimmgrant students and exchange visitors (F, M, J) admitted to the US via air and sea POEs (excluding Canada).  

China: 1.47%
India: 2.22%
S. Korea: 1.48%
S. Arabia: 1.49%
Viet Nam: 6.11%
Canada: N/A  (Students need an I-20 but not a F-1 visa.)
Brazil: 3.33%
Taiwan: .87%
Japan: 1.28%
Nigeria: 23.49%

None of these percentages come as a surprise.  Among the 10 countries on this list, which happen to represent the top 10 sending countries for international students in the US, Viet Nam ranks 2nd – after Nigera – with a suspected in-country overstay rate of 6.11%.  With the exception of Brazil, the other rates range from less than 1% (Taiwan) to just over 2% (India).  It’s as if the MAGA bean counters are looking for issues where none exist.  

Here is the FY17 breakdown for Viet Nam:  

Expected departures:  16,900
Out-of-country overstays:  447
Suspected in-country overstays:  1032
Total overstays:  1479
Total overstay rate:  8.75%
Suspected in-country overstay rate:  6.11%

Finally, here are the FY17 overstay rates for Vietnamese admitted to the US for business or pleasure, i.e., on B visas.  

Expected departures:  91,901
Out-of-country overstays:  493
Suspected in-country overstays:  2326
Total overstays:  2819
Total overstay rate:  3.07%
Suspected in-country overstay rate:  2.53%

While the student in-country overstay rate is higher than the tourist and business rate, it certainly doesn’t ring any alarm bells.  The bottom line is that virtually every Vietnamese tourist, businessperson, and student left the US on time.  Instead of overreacting and throwing the baby out with the bathwater, why not focus on those countries with exceptionally high overstay rates?  

Shalom (שלום), MAA