Study in the USA: A Service Sector Export That No Longer Sells Itself

This matter-of-fact assertion does not (and should not) come as a surprise to US colleagues who recruit internationally.  Here’s a recent story that inspired this post, so to speak, plus a heartfelt appeal. 


study in the usa2
Photo courtesy of EducationUSA

I noticed that a number of students had applied to, been admitted by, and received visas to attend a particular school in the US.  This interest was the result of a couple of public events and, of course, what the school has to offer, including solid academics and attractive scholarships for qualified and deserving students. 

Amazingly, there would have been one more student but she withdrew her application because of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on 14 February 2018 in Parkland, Florida.  Her parents decided not to send her to study in the US.  (Maybe the USA’s loss is Canada’s gain, in this case?)  So, yes, safety, as an essential element of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is a primary concern among parents, as it is for all of us.  The writing is on the recruitment wall and those of us who help international students study in the US ignore it at our collective peril.

While the number of young Vietnamese studying in the US is still healthy, these cases give one pause. You might say that this one student is insignificant because there were 31,613 Vietnamese students in the US, as of March 2018, but there are signs that others are following suit.  For example, there are about 15,000 Vietnamese students in Canada, nearly half as many as there are in the US, a country with nine times the population and thousands more educational institutions. 

Remarkably, Vietnamese students had the highest percentage increase in 2017 at 89%, making Viet Nam the fastest growing market in the country.  Canada is now a top five host country for Vietnamese students, after Japan, the USA, and Australia, followed by China. 

While US education, both secondary and postsecondary, is still a brand, it no longer sells itself.  Current news, e.g., the mass shooting du jour, a relatively high student visa denial rate, the latest policy announcement to require social media information from all visa applicants for the past five (5) years, the latest missile strike, and a roiling cauldron of perceptions (and misperceptions) can have a decisive impact on where a young person studies.

Do You Have Any I HEART Vietnamese Students Stories? 

I’ve heard stories from many colleagues about how much they value and appreciate Vietnamese students, not only for the financial contributions they make to their host institution and the communities in which they are located, but their academic performance, their integration into the campus community, their leadership qualities, and their positive attitude.

I would like ask those of you who have worked with Vietnamese students and have such a story share it with me in a 750-word essay, including photos and quotes, if possible.  I will take some of these essays and incorporate material into an article about Vietnamese students.  I would also like to translate some into Vietnamese and share them widely. By doing this, you will be helping to promote study in the USA in Viet Nam and, indirectly, promoting your institution.  Now more than ever is the time to show them (more) love.

Please contact me at markashwill[AT]capstonevietnam.com, if you’re interested in contributing an essay.

Peace, MAA

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The Vietnamese Student Pivot to the Great White North

This was the original title of my latest University World News article.  Why?  Because overseas study is not a zero-sum game or a black & white issue but rather a complex and technicolor phenomenon with many different forces at work, including push and pull factors. 

While it’s true that growing numbers of Vietnamese student are choosing Canada as an overseas study destination for the reasons I mention in the article, the USA remains a top destination, along with Australia and the UK, among the English-speaking countries.  The top six (6) leading host countries for Vietnamese students are Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada, China, and the UK.

Click on the screenshot below or this link to read the article

Peace, MAA

vn students look at us and head north

Viet Nam Is One of Two Top 10 Sending Countries With An Increase In Latest SEVIS Stats

study in the states logoIn the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update in March 2018, only two (2) among the top 10 sending countries recorded an increase in the number of students studying in the US:  Brazil and Viet Nam.   The other eight (8) saw decreases ranging from 4.43% to .28%.  Brazil jumped two places from 9th to 7th.  Taiwan surpassed Japan to take 8th place because its enrollment decrease was less than that of Japan, which slipped to 9th place.  The downward trend continued for Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

Viet Nam, with a nominal increase of 224 students (.71%), is treading water, statistically speaking.  The most notable increases and decreases among Vietnamese students were for secondary schools, i.e., boarding and day (from 4,129 or 13.2% to 4,448 or 14.1%), and language training (from 2,754 or 8.5% to 2,398 or 7.6%), respectively. 

Since I’ve heard of modest decreases in Vietnamese visa applications across-the-board, including student visas, I don’t expect this situation to change between March and the end of the fiscal year.  What happens this summer, the peak season for F-1 issuances, will tell the story for this year.  Stay tuned.

Keep in mind that probably about 9% of the F-1 Vietnamese higher education enrollment is for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, based on IIE Open Doors 2017 data, meaning these are recent graduates who are currently working. 

Top 10 Sending Countries as of March 2018

Country Dec-17 Mar-18 Percentage Change
China 382,908 377,070 -1.52%
India 212,288 211,703 -0.28%
S. Korea 68,128 67,326 -1.18%
Saudi Arabia 49,298 47,707 -3.23%
Viet Nam 31,389 31,613 +0.71%
Canada 30,034 29,750 -0.95%
Japan 24,809 23,710 -4.43% (9th in 3-18)
Taiwan 24,110 23,810 -1.24%  (8th in 3-18)
Brazil 23,901 24,858 +4.00%  (7th in 3-18)
Mexico 16,212 15,511 -4.32%
Peace, MAA

ACICS is Back in Business!

acics logoAnd I do mean busine$$.  Yes, this is the same national accrediting organizing that was “derecognized” by the US Department of Education during the last few months of the Obama administration, a decision that stood until a couple of weeks ago.  Speaking of which, I was writing an email to a colleague about a previously Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)-accredited institution in California that was shut down.  In that email I mentioned that ACICS was going the way of the dinosaur.  Before hitting send, I decided to take a take a peek at its website.  Lo and behold, I saw this Message to Membership! in bold: Secretary of Education Orders Restoration of ACICS as a Federally Recognized Accrediting Agency as of December 2016 and Outlines Next Steps in the Compliance Review Process

Someone at ACICS, or probably one of its more influential supporters, put a bee in someone else’s bonnet, presumably someone in a position of power and, voilà, new life was breathed into ACICS.  (This NYT article from 1 April 2018 delves into some of this:  It Oversaw For-Profit Colleges That Imploded. Now It Seeks a Comeback.)  This has many implications, including the fact that all of the ACICS-accredited institutions that had to find new institutional accreditation by this June are suddenly off the hook.  It’s a happy day in National Accreditation Land.

What a relief for ACICS and its accredited schools.  What terrible news for those of us who value quality US higher education and are concerned about substandard institutions cashing in on the cachet of US education and, some cases, tarnishing its generally sterling reputation.  The half-full part of me was hoping that the Trump administration would overlook this tiny corner of US higher education and that there would be some justice, at least in this case.  But it was not meant to be, not with the likes of Trump and Betsy “Amway” DeVos calling the shots.  There’s simply too much money at stake.  And money, after all, is what drives key decisions in an oligarchy.

Keep in mind that this is the same ACICS that fell asleep at the wheel and allowed not-so-stellar universities like Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) to exist.  It was because of the crack investigative reporting of Buzzfeed that the public, including a certain US senator from Connecticut, learned of this visa mill.  That’s when the shit really hit the fan. 

Then there was the great Silicon Valley University (SVU), another visa mill, also in northern California, that has been in the news, often in tandem with NPU.  Both were ACICS-accredited and both were family businesses masquerading as nonprofits.  (SVU had its accreditation revoked last December and NPU is accredited through 31.12.18, for what that’s worth.)  In both cases, no one was minding the shop. 

How is ACICS rewarded for this egregious lack of oversight?  Allowed to continue with business as usual, which reminds me of this 2017 Bill Maher editorial.  I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop. 

In a word, disgraceful

Peace, MAA

Direct Applications on the Rise

education-agentsWhile Viet Nam is still primarily an agent-driven market, growing numbers of students are beginning to bypass education agents and apply directly to educational institutions, especially for certain types of institutions and programs with simpler application procedures.  In some cases, more than 50% of all apps are directly from students.

The reasons for this recent trend are increased access to information, both on- and offline, more confidence, and greater sophistication.  Given the quality and ethical problems that plague many education agents, the more Vietnamese students (and international students, in general) who apply directly, the better.  

There are some students who don’t require the services of an education agent, thereby saving money and sparing both student and parent the potential aggravation of working with dodgy agents.  They include academically talented students who have done their homework, so to speak, and know which institutions they want on their short list, as well as those who know exactly which school they want to attend because of their participation in a fair, info session, or based on a recommendation from someone they trust, e.g., a parent, teacher, or friend. 

This is an encouraging win-win trend, in my opinion, that should be promoted.  It gives students and parents more control over the entire process, eliminates the need to work with an agent, many of whom do not have students’ (and parents’) best interests at heart, and saves admitting institutions the cost of a commission.  What’s not to like?     

Peace, MAA

Live from Viet Nam – An E20 Webinar!

e20 webinar

Last week, I had the opportunity to present on one of my favorite topics, Viet Nam, to a virtual audience of over 40 US colleagues, including those from higher and secondary education.   I’m grateful to Syed Jamal from Branta and Renait Stephens from Study in the USA, event co-sponsor, for inviting me and for scheduling the session earlier than usual, i.e., at 10 p.m. Viet Nam time.  (The usual time is 10 a.m. Pacific, which is 1 a.m. my time!) This meant that I still had my wits about me and was relatively coherent after a long day of travel and work. 

Branta-01

In my approximately 20-minute presentation, I provided a wide-ranging overview of current/recent issues and trends in Viet Nam in order to place interest in overseas study and student recruitment in a broader societal and even historical contact. 

In addition to a country update that included up-to-date statistics about young Vietnamese studying overseas in general and in the US in particular, I talked about some keys to success in a very competitive market, emphasizing how important it is for institution to find what works for them often through a process of trial and error.  I concluded with a brief discussion of the importance of digital marketing in a country with a high Internet and social media penetration rate, especially for one at its stage of development, and the often problematic issue of student visas.  Regarding the latter, it’s important to focus on what is within our control, e.g., embrace visa counseling and reject scripting.

I also shared a link with all participants to a password-protected page I created on this very blog entitled Selected Online Resources About Viet Nam & Student Recruitment.

Peace, MAA

 

US Student Visa Issuances to Vietnamese Students Resume Their Upward Trend

Below is a graph with information about F-1 (student) visa issuances from 1998, the early days of Vietnamese studying in the US, to 2017, which ended on 30 September last year. These data are from this Excel file on the US State Department website:  Nonimmigrant Visa Issuances by Visa Class and by Nationality.  Just download and look for Viet Nam.

As you can see below, there has been some volatility in the number of student visas issued to Vietnamese students in the last few years.  There was a…

  • substantial 35% increase from 2013-14
  • somewhat more modest yet still impressive increase of 20.44% from 2014-15
  • decrease of 11.28% from 2015-16
  • rebound increase of 8.62% from 2016-17

We’ll have to wait until the FY18 results to determine whether the 2016 decrease was an aberration or a trend.  One possible indicator is the fact that the 2017 number is lower than that of 2015 by 642 visas.

Keep in mind that these issuances include renewals and that about 9% of all Vietnamese students (PDF download of Viet Nam Fact Sheet) enrolled in US higher education have Optional Practical Training (OPT) status, according to the IIE Open Doors 2017 report.  That includes 2,345 Vietnamese students in higher education, or 9% of the total, as of December 2017.  (Open Doors and SEVIS use different data sets, the former from a survey of higher education institutions administered a year before the results are released and the latter using real-time and comprehensive data.)

1998-17 F-1 visas vn to us

Peace, MAA