Is COST Really the Key Factor in the Decline of New Int’l Enrollments in the US?

open-doors-report-on-international-educational-exchange-56After the latest Open Doors report was released, Allan E. Goodman, president & CEO of the Institute of International Education (IIE), did his level best to spin the statistics by pointing to cost as the overriding factor in the decline of new international enrollments rather than the impact of the Trump Effect.  

While the total number was a record high of 1,095,299 in 2018/29, new student enrollments decreased by 0.9% for the third consecutive year.  Keep in mind that the Open Doors survey is conducted in the fall semester of the previous academic year, which means the data are always a year old when they’re released.  Like many other IIE activities, it is funded by the US State Department.  78.2% of the organization’s 2017 revenue was from “government grants.”

By highlighting cost and ignoring the orange elephant in the room, Goodman is being disingenuous, at best, in the spirit of “whose bread I eat, his song I sing” and, continuing with a culinary theme, not biting the hand that feeds you.  As issues go, cost has been one of the “usual suspects” for a very long time.  You can’t have an honest discussion about a decline in new international enrollments without talking about what Trump and his administration have said and done since he came to power.  The price some organizations and their leaders pay to keep the government-funded spigot flowing.  

The title of this Politico article is spot-on:  Growth in international student enrollment stalls under Trump administration.  Here’s a key excerpt:  Some U.S. college leaders have blamed White House rhetoric, visa delays and global tensions for discouraging overseas students. But officials who released the report downplayed those concerns and pointed to growing competition from abroad as well as the sheer price tag of a U.S. degree.  The truth may hurt at times but it’s far preferable to deflection and dissembling.  Another concern expressed by many parents and students in sending countries is epidemic of gun violence.  

OPT as a Puzzling Piece of the Puzzle

One point about Optional Practical Training (OPT) statistics.  While it’s true that if you subtract them from the total, there were 872,000 international students in the US last year not over 1 million, that number only includes HE not secondary and other enrollments.  If you add international secondary students to the mix, the US is still the world’s leading host of international students, for what that’s worth.   

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

May-September 2019 US Student Visa Update from Viet Nam

Modest Upward Trend Continues

us state dept sealI have some good news for those of you who are involved in the recruitment of US-bound Vietnamese students.  Since this is International Education Week (IEW) in the US, this is a fitting time to upload this post!  

Interest in study in the USA among Vietnamese parents and students remains high, as evidenced by the number of student visas issue from May through September of this year, the peak season.  This information is lieu of the SEVIS by the Numbers update, which should be out any day now, according to SEVP colleagues, whom I’ve emailed on several occasions.  

As of March 2019, there were 30,684 young Vietnamese studying in the US at all levels, most in higher education.  Viet Nam ranked 5th among sending countries.  

Consider this an addendum to an August 2019 update that covered the months of May, June, and July.  

May 2018: 1110
May 2019: 1223 (+10.18%)

June 2018: 3147
June 2019: 3148 (+.03%)

July 2018: 4942
July 2019: 5250  (+6.23%)

August 2018: 2754
August 2019: 2760 (+.22%)

September 2018: 405
September 2019: 435 (+7.41%)

May-September 2018: 12,358
May-September 2019: 12,816 (+3.71%)

The YOY increase over 2018 was 3.71%.  While modest, it does indicate forward momentum, which definitely qualifies as “good news” in challenging times.  

Source:  Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics (PDF download), US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs

Stay tuned!  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

Announcing Capstone’s Spring 2020 StudyUSA & Canada Higher Education Fairs

gif-2And now a word from our sponsor…  🙂  I’m pleased to announce Capstone’s spring 2020 StudyUSA & Canada Higher Education Fairs, which will take place from 21 February to 1 March in Hanoi, Haiphong, Danang, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).  Please click on the ad on the left or the poster below for detailed information and online registration.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

HE 2020-01 (1).jpg

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

US Student Visa Issuances Up in May-July 2019 Over 2018

dos-logo-lightAs US international student recruiters know all too well, these are tough times for most institutions for a variety of social, political, and economic reasons.  Viet Nam, however, remains a bright spot on the recruitment horizon.  As of March 2019, there were 30,684 young Vietnamese studying in the US at all levels, most in higher education.  Viet Nam ranked 5th among sending countries.
Since I like to stay up-to-date with these trends and since we can all use good news in troubled times, I’m happy to report that the number of student visas issued by the US Embassy and Consulate to Vietnamese student has seen an increase of 4.58% during three of the peak months of May, June, and July of this year over the same months in 2018.  Here are the relevant stats:

May 2018:  1110
May 2019:  1223

June 2018:  3147
June 2019:  3148

July 2018:  4942
July 2019:  5250

SourceMonthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics, US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
If the 3% increase from 8/18 to 3/19 is any indication, many of these visas may be for secondary (boarding & day) school students.  sevis dhs
Regarding the latter, I emailed the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to ask when the latest SEVIS by the Numbers data would be released.   Lo and behold, I received a response in one day (thank you, US government civil servants!) informing me that “SEVP is currently in the process of clearing new data for upload on Study in the States’ Mapping SEVIS by the Numbers tool and we anticipate this data to be published in the next month or so.”  
Peak student visa season winds down next month so let’s hope August has followed in the footsteps of the preceding three months.  Stay tuned!
Shalom (שלום), MAA
Postscript:  On a related note, colleagues often ask me about issuance and refusal rates for Viet Nam.  All I can do is provide a general answer and distinguish between different types of institutions and programs.  Since the US government does not release those for some reason (these are not a state secrets, after all), my suggestion is for them to file a request for that information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Anyone interested?

Social Media Question on Visa Application: Yet Another Obstacle on the Path to Study in the USA

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Image courtesy of BBC

Yes, the nightmare proposal related to US-bound international student recruitment has become a cold, stark reality.  Check out this 3 June 2019 update from NAFSA:  Association of International Educators or this 1 June 2019 BBC report about the collection of social media information.

The “social media” question has been added to the DS-160 form, the online application used by individuals to apply for a nonimmigrant visa, including the F-1.  Applicants use a drop-down list to indicate the social media platforms they’ve used during the five years preceding their visa application, and to provide any IDs or handles they used on those platforms.  (Internal censorship, anyone?)  

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Copyright:© Bawnation

What are the criteria, I wonder?  I can guess and my guesses are probably not far off the mark, sadly.  If the applicant is a card-carrying member of a terrorist organization, s/he probably wouldn’t advertise that fact on social media channels.  Memo to the US government powers that be:  Have you heard of the “dark web” and/or encrypted communication?  Yes, some apps are good, so good, in fact, that the National Security Agency aka NSA and other intelligence agencies cannot hack them, or so I’m told by reliable IT sources. 

FB_IMG_1560995888117If a visa applicant wrote somewhere that Donald Trump is an Orange POS, does that disqualify her/him from obtaining a F-1 or other nonimmigrant visa?  What about students who are critical of US domestic and/or foreign policy?  Same end result?  What about those who don’t believe that God wanted Trump to be president?  Ditto?  What if I posted the meme to the left on one or more of my social media accounts?  That’s a rather vast expanse of gray, my friends.   

Here’s another educated guess:  If I didn’t hold a US passport, I probably wouldn’t receive a nonimmigrant visa, if the busy little bureaucratic beavers took a gander at some of the gems I’ve posted on what few social media channels I use, not to mention blog posts, articles, and book chapters that I’ve written, even those that have been mildly censored.  That’s what the USA has come to these days.  The land of the free and the home of the brave, indeed.  

Here’s a question for you, dear reader, that is not academic.  Does the US government really have the technical capability to sort through and filter ALL of this information in multiple languages in a reasonably short period of time?  Based on past performance, I have my doubts.  (Think 9/11, for example, or the collapse of the Soviet Union, for that matter.)  What about many of the Tweets from the Tweeter-in-Chief himself?  If Donald Trump didn’t carry a US passport, would he survive the screening?  

Perhaps more bureaucratic bark than bite?  Time will tell.  At any rate, one more hoop to jump through for millions of nonimmigrant visa applicants, including students, more wasted time in a life that is already fleeting, and one more reason for some international students to consider studying elsewhere.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Bonus:  The following was posted in one of the Facebook groups for college counselors of which I’m a member:  

If you work with international students, be prepared for this.  The State Department updated both the DS-160 (non-immigrant visa application) and the DS-260 (immigrant visa application) in the last week to ask all visa applicants to provide their social media names/handles for the last 5 years.  
 
This means that even STUDENTS applying to come to the US to study will be asked to provide information for the following platforms:

Ask.FM
Douban
Facebook
Flickr
Google+
Instagram
LinkedIn
Myspace
Pinterest
QZone(QQ)
REDDIT
SINA WEIBO
TENCENT WEIBO
TUMBLR
TWITTER
TWOO
VINE
VKONTAKTE(VK)
YOUKU
YOUTUBE

That is the actual list from the application. Yes, the government requires Vine info (which doesn’t exist anymore) but not Snapchat (which is where all the kids are), but welcome to the era of “extreme vetting”.
 
I shudder to think what impact this is going to have on students trying to come here to study.

Number of Vietnamese Students in the US Rebounds

For those US colleagues who recruit in Viet Nam, there is some good news in challenging times. According to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update from March 2019, there are 30,684 Vietnamese students studying in the US at all levels, an increase of 3% over August 2018.

pie logo-newerHere is my latest update about US-bound Vietnamese students, published on 29 May 2019 by The PIE Blog.

Shalom (שלום), MAA