B-1/2 vs. F-1 Visas to the USA

us state dept seal.pngThe adjusted refusal rate for B (tourist/business) visas issued to Vietnamese citizens in 2018 was 26.2%, which means the issuance rate was 73.8%. I wish we had access to the same information for F-1 (student) visas broken down by state and even institution and type of institution.  

Student visa issuance rates are generally quite a bit lower, more so at the US Consulate in HCMC than the US Embassy in Hanoi.  I’ve heard of issuances rates ranging from less than 50% to over 75%.  I work with a number of secondary and four-year institutions that boast an issuance rate of 100% in Viet Nam.  

Other foreign governments do a much better job of sharing this important information. For example, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recently released information indicating that the refusal rate from 1 January to 31 May of this year for Viet Nam was 55% compared to 15% for China and 36% for India.  In 2018, it was 22% for Viet Nam.  

As I’ve mentioned to a number of US colleagues and journalists, the only way to obtain this information is through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  It shouldn’t be this hard.  These are not state secrets after all.  I recently heard from one colleague who filed a FOIA request.  I look forward to seeing the results.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Viet Nam Ranks 60th Out of 163 in 2018 Global Peace Index

vision of humanity

Viet Nam is a peaceful country.  For those of us who live here, I’m stating the obvious.  According to the latest Global Peace Index reportViet Nam ranks 60th out of 163 countries surveyed.  That ranking is in descending order from the “most peaceful” (Iceland) to the “most dangerous” (Syria).  The “state of peace” categories include: very high, high, medium, low, and very low.  This means that Viet Nam falls into the “high” category, as do Germany (#17), the UK (#57) and France (#61).  Australia, Canada, and Japan are classified as “very high” and rank 13th, 6th, and 9th respectively.  

The Global Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), measures global peace using three broad themes: the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict, and the degree of militarization.  

In the realm of personal safety, there are certain precautions one needs to take in Viet Nam, e.g., don’t walk around Hanoi and HCMC waving an expensive smartphone and always hold your bag away from the street, but violent crimes against people are rare. 

To learn more about the methodology and/or results of this survey, download this PDF report, all 100 pages of it.    

Peace, MAA

The Tip of the Iceberg? “China’s New Oriental accused of US application fraud”

tip-of-the-icebergIt is thanks to the crack reporting of Reuters that we have this  high-profile story about New Oriental Vision Overseas (NOVO) Consulting, a China-based educational consulting company that has allegedly behaved badly.  Otherwise, it would be business as usual.  You can be sure that this is not an exception to the rule but rather a widespread practice in this often less than savory industry. The fraud allegations include writing application essays and teacher recommendations, as well as falsifying high school transcripts.  (Yes, this is not unique to China.)  

As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, including a December 2014 essay entitled Walking the walk – Ethical agency-based recruitment and a September 2016 essay entitled Take responsibility for ensuring ethical recruitment, external stamps of approval can be useful but have their limitations.  This is an object lesson that supports that assertion in spades. 

NOVO’s parent company, New Oriental Education and Technology Group, is not your average, run-of-the-mill education consultancy.  It is a multi-billion dollar company with a market capitalization of $6.91 billion, a nearly 40% one-year return, and a listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). 

Here’s a description taken from the company website:

New Oriental is the largest provider of private educational services in China based on the number of program offerings, total student enrollments and geographic presence. New Oriental offers a wide range of educational programs, services and products consisting primarily of English and other foreign language training, test preparation courses for major admissions and assessment tests in the United States, the PRC and Commonwealth countries, primary and secondary school education, development and distribution of educational content, software and other technology, and online education.

And here are its first fiscal quarter results from earlier this year:

New Oriental Announces Results for the First Fiscal Quarter Ended August 31, 2016
Quarterly Net Revenues Increased by 16.5% Year-Over-YearQuarterly Student Enrollments Increased by 31.2% Year-Over-YearQuarterly Operating Income Increased by 17.5% Year-Over-Year

BEIJING, Oct. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — New Oriental Education and Technology Group Inc. (the “Company” or “New Oriental”) (NYSE: EDU), the largest provider of private educational services in China, today announced its unaudited financial results for the first fiscal quarter ended August 31, 2016, which is the first quarter of New Oriental’s fiscal year 2017.   Source:  Official Press Release

When the story broke, the stock fell to as low as $37.16 per share and the Relative Strength Index, which “measures momentum on a scale of zero to 100,” hit 29.3.  (A stock is considered to be oversold if the RSI reading falls below 30.) 

Since investors are concerned about the value of their stock holdings and controversy can damage the bottom line, it’s no wonder that a number of investor alerts were issued.  Khang & Khang LLP, an Irvine, CA-based law firm, is investigating claims against New Oriental “concerning possible violations of federal securities laws.”  So is the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC), since New Oriental is an AIRC-certified agency.

I’m not sure what the AIRC investigation will produce but you can be sure that the organization will rely heavily on the information gleaned from the agency itself, the Reuters report, and other investigations conducted by players with substantially more resources at their disposal, including the aforementioned law firm in CA. (Here is the company’s official response to media reports and The Motley Fool assessment of the situation.)

The bottom line, dear colleagues, is that you need to decide whether or not to work with educational consulting company A based on your own set of screening criteria and whatever external information you have access to.  The buck stops with you. 

Kudo to Reuters reporters for another round of outstanding investigative reporting.  And the truth will set you free, or at least alert you to yet another scandal in the education industry!


The TPP & China

Below is guest post by Chuck Searcy, a US veteran who has lived and worked in Vietnam for over 20 years. 

The reporting on “trade” is actually pretty misleading, because the TPP does not have much to do with trade (only what? — five out of 23 chapters related to trade?).  It’s mostly about widening opportunities for multinational corporations to intrude into fragile markets such as Viet Nam to take enormous advantage of local companies and production sectors, particularly drugs and agriculture.

There is something that doesn’t meet the “smell test” about the likelihood that U.S. beef imports into Viet Nam will sell more cheaply than locally produced meats.  That’s because heavy U.S. government subsidies are very well hidden.  The Vietnamese have no clue how to peel through the layers of America’s generously subsidized economy and learn the truth.  But American corporate lawyers will be lined up to take action against Viet Nam for the slightest advantage that Viet Nam seeks under the TPP.

We’ve slapped Viet Nam down several times — with textiles, shrimp, catfish, under terms of the US-VN Bilateral Trade Agreement which the Vietnamese naively thought would help them so much.  The WTO turned out to be a major disappointment for Viet Nam.

Courtesy of WikiLeaks

And no one knows the consequences that will result from America’s attempts to exclude, or cordon off, China from this commercial arena.  The scheme is not realistic, and could be quite damaging for Viet Nam. Much of Viet Nam’s raw material (threads and fabrics for the garment industry, for example) come from China.  Will Viet Nam now have to buy these inputs from other more expensive markets? Possibly. No one quite knows.  But “origin” in China will not be allowed.  That will be great satisfaction for Obama and Washington politicians, who want to “contain” China.

Prof. Herman Daly should be studied and listened to much more carefully. The “steady state” economy that he and many others promote is really the only answer to conventional economics, which is a runaway train that is gobbling up resources as if there will never be a tomorrow.  The conventional approach is to create a rapacious, advertising-driven consumer market that is based on waste and finite destruction.  It is simply not sustainable.

For politicians in Viet Nam and most other countries to continue to speak as robots about “growth” is dangerous for future generations.  We simply do not need to be destroying the earth as we’re doing, in a quest for meaningless gadgets and playthings, while much of the world’s population lives a meager existence only because we have such a distorted global economy that we refuse to distribute a food supply that is actually adequate to feed the entire world.

The TPP is just one more ticket to one more glittery ball to be enjoyed by a few wealthy patrons, as the masses stand outside shivering, but at midnight the clock will strike and everything will collapse (or maybe we’ll turn into pumpkins).

Most of us are in denial that such a scenario will really happen.  And maybe it won’t, if we listen to a few enlightened people like Herman Daly — and if it’s not too late.

Final note:  I recently was in a meeting with two semi-retired company executives and Vietnamese government advisers who are part of a Vietnamese think-tank.  After all the discussion about “trade” advantages turned out to be mostly irrelevant, they concluded, with some confidence, that “trade” didn’t really matter in the TPP.  The reason Viet Nam had to sign the TPP, they said, was strictly political.  “Viet Nam must have a place at the table,” they said.  “We have to be viewed as being a significant ‘international’ player, so we cannot be left out of the TPP.  It is important for our positioning against China.”

There you have it.  It’s all about positioning vis-a-vis China and exactly the trap in which the U.S. wants to ensnare Viet Nam.  Next will come big weapons sales from the U.S. and after that the “independence” that Viet Nam fought for during the past century will be lost to the behemoth of global state capitalism and militarism.

China & Vietnam: A Study in the USA Comparison

Given the  intriguing historical relationship between Vietnam and China, I thought it might be interesting to do a brief comparison between the two as it relates to study in the USA. But first, here’s some basic up-to-date (as of 2014) information about each country.


  • The population of China is estimated at 1,393,783,836 as of 1 July 2014.
  • China’s population is equivalent to 19.24% of the total world population.
  • China ranks number 1 in the list of countries by population.
  • The population density in China is 145 people per km2.
  • 54% of the population is urban (756,300,115 people in 2014).
  • The median age in China is 35.7 years.

Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/


  • The population of Vietnam is estimated at 92,547,959 as of 1 July, 2014.
  • Vietnam’s population represents 1.28% of the total world population.
  • Vietnam ranks number 14 in the list of countries by population.
  • The population density in Vietnam is 279 people per km2.
  • 33% of the population is urban (30,482,811 people)
  • The median age in Vietnam is 30.3 years.

Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/vietnam-population/

The 2015 populations of China and Vietnam are 1,401,586,609 and 93,386,630, respectively. This means that China has 15 times as many people as Vietnam.  For what this figure is worth – it is, after all, only an aggregate indicator of economic growth – China’s per capita income of $6807 in 2013 was 3.56 times as high as Vietnam’s ($1911), according to The World Bank.

China, Vietnam & StudyUSA

As of February 2015, there were 25,982 Vietnamese studying in the US at the secondary and postsecondary levels and 331,371 Chinese. China is the world’s leading sending country for US-bound students while Vietnam ranks 7th.  While China’s population is 15 times larger than Vietnam’s, it has 12.75 times as many students in the US as Vietnam.

If you look at secondary (mostly boarding school) vs. higher education enrollment in the latest year for which both data sets are available (i.e., 2013) the breakdown was as follows:

Secondary Total

  • China: 23,562 (#1)
  • Vietnam: 2,289 (#6)

Postsecondary Total

  • China: 235,597 (#1)
  • Vietnam:  16,098 (#8)

87.6% and 12.4% of Vietnamese enrollment was in higher and secondary education, respectively. The figures for China were 91% and 9%.

Using the NAFSA formula for 2014, with information from IIE’s Open Doors Report and the US Department of Commerce, Chinese and Vietnamese students and their families contributed $8.04 billion and $543 million to the US economy last year.

Assuming the average annual cost of attending a US boarding school is $38,580, Chinese and Vietnamese parents paid at least $909 million and $88.3 million, respectively.  (Many are full-paying students at boarding schools in the 45k-55k range.)

It is safe to assume then that Vietnamese families spent over $631 million on secondary and postsecondary study in the US for their children while Chinese families spent nearly $9 billion.  (Memo to the purists:  pardon me for mixing data from 2013 and 2014.  I don’t have the economic impact information for Vietnam and China in 2013.  These are ballpark estimates anyway; this is not an exact science.)

Two Predictions

Like most, I don’t have a crystal ball so these are just educated guesses based on the above data and some information that I have not included about the state of higher education in each country.

Something to keep in mind is that each country has experienced dramatic growth over the past few decades but that Vietnam had a very different starting point because of two consecutive wars, the devastating impact of a US-led economic embargo that dated to 1965 and was lifted in 1994 and post-war poverty.  In terms of urbanization and median age China is now what Vietnam is quickly becoming.

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb by making the following predictions:

  1. Chinese enrollments at both levels will peak and begin to decline.  China’s population (35.7 years) is quite a bit older than Vietnam’s (30.3 median age) and there are more and more quality educational opportunities available at home.
  2. Vietnamese enrollments at both levels will continue to increase.  Vietnam has a younger median age, incomes continue to rise and it will be a while before the domestic higher education system improves to the extent that most Vietnamese of means will want to send their children to local institutions.

This is yet another reason why US colleges and universities should diversify their international recruiting strategy to include the four emerging markets identified in a recent World Education Services (WES) survey:  Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Nigeria.


‘American Universities Are Addicted to Chinese Students’

A startling number of Chinese students are getting kicked out of American colleges. According to a white paper published by WholeRen, a Pittsburgh-based consultancy, an estimated 8,000 students from China were expelled from universities and colleges across the United States in 2013-4. The vast majority of these students—around 80 percent—were removed due to cheating or failing their classes.

As long as universities have existed, students have found a way to get expelled from them. But the prevalence of expulsions of Chinese students should be a source of alarm for American university administrators. According to the Institute of International Education, 274,439 students from China attended school in the United States in 2013-4, a 16 percent jump from the year before. Chinese students represent 31 percent of all international students in the country and contributed an estimated $22 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014.

Here’s thechinese students in the us story du jour from The Atlantic about the leading country of origin, China, whose students comprise nearly one-third of the 886,052 international students in the US.  It’s no wonder they attract a disproportionate amount of attention from the media, both positive and negative. In this case, it’s the latter – China as international education whipping boy.

While words like “startling” and “massive” are bandied about, the actual percentage of Chinese students who were expelled in 2013-14 because of cheating or failing their classes was about 2.9%, which means the other 97.1% were at least meeting minimum standards and most doing considerably better than that.  (Cheating is a national pastime in much of Asia so it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that Asian students cheat in the US, along with the US peers, albeit to a lesser extent.  What makes China unique and what increases the likelihood that more of its students will be expelled is that 1 in 3 international students in the US is Chinese!)

One thoughtful international education colleague provided some much-needed context with this reaction to the article:

Frankly, I was surprised that the number wasn’t even higher. The entire education regime in China is fundamentally different from the US system, so to expect similar results/outcomes when Chinese students study in the US system is ludicrous to begin with. Add to that, the radical differences in the extra-academic environment, and 8,000 seems low to me. It is to the credit of the Chinese that the number is not higher. This is what the article should have focused on.
A more refined focus would have highlighted how the Chinese, on a per-student basis, actually shift the GPA curve higher, and this is true at every institution that admits Chinese students. They have a higher on-time college completion rate than US students, they pay full tuition (except for the merit scholarship students), and they do not participate in the carnal excesses of Greek loser life. They are often tutors and class/lab assistants in the STEM fields. And in the classroom they contribute a diversity of perspectives and opinions that simply do not exist among US students.
The 8,000 seems significant, but there was no breakdown of how many of those students were expelled for willful delinquency versus expelled for poor academic performance resulting from depression, difficulty in adjusting/assimilating, making mistakes due to lack of knowledge of the campus culture, poor institutional fit due to unscrupulous agents/admissions offices, inexperienced and ignorant student service administrators/staff/faculty, etc.
I would like to see the expulsion numbers for the Saudi students, who contribute far less academically and who seem to knowingly and intentionally get into more trouble for non-academic reasons (and even academic dishonesty reasons) far out of proportion to their numbers.

2-15 top 10 countriesAnother big story is the sheer number of Chinese students enrolled in many of America’s colleges and universities, which has created a several problems.  One is that some of those institutions that have opted to pick the low-hanging fruit have become victims of their own success.  They have Chinese ghettos that make it difficult for many Chinese students to adjust and continue to improve their English proficiency.  (Many Vietnamese and Chinese parents share this concern, and would prefer to send their children to schools that do not have too many students from their countries.)

There are other schools that have chosen to limit their Chinese enrollment in the interest of diversity and recruit from other key markets, including Vietnam.  This explains in part the growing interest in Vietnamese students and those from other countries.  It’s not all about “showin’ me the money,” i.e., tuition dollars and related financial contributions.

So, while the title is juicy and guaranteed to garner thousands of Facebook likes and Tweets, the reality is more complex and nuanced.  Wise institutions follow the path of diversification to the benefit of their students, communities and reputation.