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

Senior Spotlight: Trang Quỳnh “Tracy” Đào Đỗ Enrolling at Barnard College

Congratulations to Ms. Trang “Tracy” Đào Đỗ for her admission to Barnard College, Columbia University.  Trang is one of many students that my company, Capstone Vietnam, has helped study in the US and other her countries in the past decade.  Below is an announcement that appeared in a recent issue of the Léman Manhattan Preparatory School newsletter.


trang lemanAs President of the Boarding Student Government and the Asian Culture Club, a member of the National Honor Society, a Student Ambassador, and a full IB Diploma Candidate, Tracy has embraced a variety of leadership rolls and activities in her time at Léman. “The most important thing I’ve learned from these rolls is confidence,” she says, “Before I came to Léman, I had difficulty speaking up and expressing myself, but Léman has made me more comfortable in my own skin and I think I’ve grown as a person.”

She is most proud of her achievements as a founding member of the Asian Culture Club. “We wrote a letter asking Mr. Spezzano if we could have chopsticks in the café, and it makes me feel good seeing people use them. It’s a small thing that makes Asian students feel at home. I love teaching and learning from other people about different cultures, which is why I’m grateful to be a part of such an international community,” she says.

She feels that she will continue to grow and learn in the fall when she enrolls at Barnard College, ranked #25 in National Liberal Arts Colleges by US News and World Report, where she plans to major in Biology. “I grew up in Vietnam, where women aren’t taught to be outspoken and opinionated. I think going to an all-women’s school will help me continue to become more successful,” she says.

One of the main reasons her family chose Léman when they were looking for a school in the US was the International Baccalaureate Programme. “I’m happy with the IB because we focus on collaborative projects and creative writing and it emphasizes critical thinking,” which she feels will be helpful in college.

Although she’s looking forward to graduation, she will miss the Léman community. “Léman is very special because it is such a diverse community,” she says, “Everyone is different but also very open-minded. I feel like I’ve learned something from every person I’ve met here.”

Congratulations, Tracy! We know you’ll be successful at Barnard and beyond!

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“International education ‘number one priority’ for US bureau”

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At the February IIE Summit 2019, Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), US State Department, told her audience that international education is the #1 priority for ECA.  Her deputy, Caroline Casagrande, confirmed that “additional resources” have been obtained to promote outbound and inbound study abroad.  What “additional resources,” I wonder? 

In terms of inbound students, I’m afraid the horse has left the barn and that whatever support the US State Department has to offer is too little, too late.  The elephant in the room of the IIE Summit was, of course, Donald Trump and MAGA, who really don’t care about international students, at best.  Naturally, no one at IIE can say that because one of the golden rules in the NGO world is “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”  Since IIE received 78.2% of its 2017 revenue from “government grants,” that’s a lot of food!  (That percentage was once heading south in the interest of diversification, i.e., don’t put too many of your budgetary eggs in one basket – to the credit of IIE – but I guess some things are not meant to be.)  

In fact, the view of the vocal nativist minority may shift from not caring to wanting to fewer international students to study in the US following in the footsteps of a recent survey in Australia in which 54% of the respondents, admittedly barely a simple majority, thought that international student numbers should not be increased.  

If international education is going to be the “number one priority” for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), it is probably in word only.  As usual, US educational institutions are on their own and, in fact, are saddled with the additional burden of having to work against the negatives that have piled up during the Trump administration in- and outside the Beltway.  

Following a point/counterpoint format, here are some additional observations:

“We face growing international competition to attract the world’s globally mobile students. While we are already making great strides to respond to these new challenges, we must step up our game.”  What are the “great strides” ECA is making, pray tell?

“At ECA our goals are clear,” said Royce, underlining that US government is committed to both outbound and inbound exchanges – and explaining that president Donald Trump began penning letters to all US Department of State exchange participants in 2018.  A symbolic act that, in Trump’s case, only means he likes to see his name appear in as many documents as possible.

ECA also “actively supports” America’s competitive education advantage through its Education USA network, which operates in 180 countries, with 435 centres and 550 advisors to promote American colleges and universities abroad, she reminded.  While EducationUSA is useful, it is hardly a competitive advantage.  On a related issue, I hope ECA thinks long and hard about its decision to work with education agents, embraced by the pro-agent crowd but not by EducationUSA in the field.    

However, cost is a “leading reason that students decide not to pursue US study” Royce said, and ECA “wants to raise awareness abroad that there are study options at many price points”.  Cost is one of many factors contributing to the steady decline of international students choosing the USA as an overseas study destination.  Others include gun violence, the widespread perception that the US is not as open and welcoming as it once was and, in the case of countries, Trump himself, who has insulted a long and growing list of peoples and countries.    

The fact that IIE awarded ECA the first centennial medal is yet another example of that organization kissing the hand that feeds, given how much of IIE’s budget still comes from the US State Department.  

Finally, as with the rhetorical open arms embrace of education agents, announced by the same two ECA political appointees last December, we’ll have to wait and see if they’re planning to walk the walk.  If so, what will the impact be, if any?  I won’t hold my breath.  The latest is that EducationUSA may provide training to education agents.  That could be a good thing if it’s done in the right way and agents are probibited from using text or images from such events in an attempt at honor by association.  As mentioned in a recent co-authored article, the devil is in the details.  

Postscript:  Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the UK government has published a new International Education Strategy that outlines “plans to increase students numbers and income generated from international education.”  While I’d prefer less emphasis be placed on the revenue benefit of hosting large numbers of international students, I understand that’s the key selling point for most policymakers.  Having said that, the UK and other governments that value international students have something that the US government does not currently have – a STRATEGY.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

US Student Visa Update from Viet Nam: So Far, So Good in FY19

travel state gov

I know it’s only four months into the 2019 US government fiscal year (FY19) but I look for trends wherever I can find them, even if they’re just beginning to take shape.  Based on US State Department statistics, the number of student visas issued from October 2018 to January 2019 by US Mission-Viet Nam, which includes the Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), pretty much mirror those of the same period last year.  (Overall, 5.9% fewer F-1s were issued in 2018 than in FY17, based on a slightly revised final tally.)  This is a tentatively positive sign, at least for the first quarter of this fiscal year and in view of substantial decreases from other major sending countries and a downward trend in F-1 issuances.  Each month is linked to a PDF download of the relevant statistics for Viet Nam and other countries.  

October 2018: 206 vs. 275 in 10-17

November 2018: 390 vs. 364 in 11-17

December 20181,077 vs. 1,299 in 12/17

January 2019 1400 vs. 1165 in 1/18

For what it’s worth, this amounts to a statistically insignificant decrease of 1% rounded up.  While the December issuances were down, they rebounded in January to the tune of 20% over 2018.  At this point, we’ll have to wait until “high season”, i.e., from May-August, to see what’s really happening and what the prospects are for the 2019/20 academic year and beyond.  So far, so good for those US colleagues who recruit in Viet Nam.  Stay tuned!  

Source:  Monthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics

Shalom (שלום), MAA

The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam

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Follow this link to read my latest article, which is about a phenomenon I’ve observed over the years, namely, how some young Vietnamese who study in the USA become what I refer to as honorary US nationalists.  (If you’re not sure what nationalism means, have a look at this 2016 essayHint:  It’s quite different from patriotism.)  

Here’s an excerpt:  

Overseas study is a unique opportunity to learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the host country, all the colors of its social, political, and economic rainbow, as it were, a sentiment echoed by Senator J. William Fulbright, whose name is synonymous with international educational exchange in the country of his birth:  There is nothing obscure about the objectives of educational exchange. Its purpose is to acquaint Americans with the world as it is and to acquaint students and scholars from many lands with America as it is–not as we wish it were or as we might wish foreigners to see it, but exactly as it is… [From the Forward of The Fulbright Program: A History]

My advice to these three young Vietnamese, whose stories I have shared, and others like them, regardless of nationality, is as follows: Learn more about your country’s history, the sacrifices made by previous generations, and the role of foreign powers in domestic affairs. Learn about other countries as they are, not as some people wish you to see them. Preserve your intellectual and spiritual independence and, by doing so, retain your integrity. Finally, never allow yourselves to be used by people whose primary concern is their own country, especially when those interests run contrary to those of your country, and other nations and peoples. Be true to yourselves and to historical truth.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Top US 10 States & Leading Host Institutions by Location

open doors 2018689,063 international students in the US in 2017/18, or 63% of the total, studied in 10 states, according to Open Doors 2018 data.  You can see a list of 50 states and some US territories by following this link, or click on each state below to see its fact sheet (PDF download).  Each fact sheet lists the top 5 places of origin for international students by percentage and the top five host institutions in that state, in addition to the percentage change from the previous academic year and the estimated international student expenditure in that state.  

1) CA: 161,942
2) NY: 121,260
3) TX: 84,348
4) MA: 68,192
5) IL: 53,362
6) PA: 51,817
7) FL: 46,516
8) OH: 37,583
9) MI: 34,049
10) IN: 29,994

You’ll notice that most have large urban centers, which is where most US Americans lives.  Below is a composite image of the continental US at night in 2016.  (Credits: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)  

us map at night 2018 nasa

Now here are the top 25 leading host institutions, which enrolled 251,972 international students last year, or 23% of the total, followed by a map of the US that indicates clusters of high international enrollment.

top 10 leading institutions

11-20 top

21-25

usa map enrollments

One conclusion to be drawn from the above is that if your institution is not located in one of the top 10 states, the challenge of recruiting international students, in addition to everything else that is currently on our collective plate, is more daunting.  You simply have to be more proactive and, to use an old tagline, try harder.  There are many individual success stories and concrete reasons for institutions’ success in international student recruitment.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA