Vietnamese Student (Mis)Perceptions of the USA

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Image courtesy of Nevada News & Views

I recently talked with a Vietnamese student who had studied in the US and was back home.  When I asked him about the experience of living there, one reply really stood out:  people are free and equal.  That answer jump-started my interior monologue, which quickly went into overdrive.  The first reply was Which people, in what ways, how, and why?

This response reminded me of the US party line, the stuff of cultural mythology, the American Dream, and all that jazz.  Such statements reflect 1) a lack of knowledge about the country before studying and living there, and 2) limited in country experience, regardless of how long the person is there.  It’s easy to hold false beliefs when one is sheltered (e.g., perhaps mostly Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American friends) and living in an echo chamber. 

This is not unlike many (most?) US Americans who are born into privilege and grow up thinking that the US is the land opportunity for everyone willing to work hard enough.  (There are millions of examples of people who are working very hard, as in multiple low-paying jobs, yet who continue to sink financially and in many other respects.) 

It also doesn’t take into account one’s social class, gender, or race.  Life is much better for people who look like me, i.e., white, and who had the kinds of advantages I had.  In other words, some US Americans are “freer” than others in the sense that they have more freedom of action, a greater chance to realize their potential, to find their ikigai, as it were. 

Since this is a blog post and not a feature article, a report, a book chapter, or a book (!), let me offer a few compelling examples that blow the notion that people (in the US) are free and equal out of the proverbial water. 

US life expectancy drops for second year in a row (22.12.17)

Extreme poverty returns to America (21.12.17) “We’re #1 in…” child poverty among peer countries.

Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined: Report (8.11.17)

The US has a lot of money, but it does not look like a developed country (10.3.17)

All of the above was happening before Trump declared an all-out war on virtually everyone who is not part of the financial elite. 

MAA

 

 

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Vietnamese Students Contribute Over $1 Billion to the US Economy

In 2016/17, Vietnamese students enrolled in US colleges and universities contributed $818 million to the US economy, according to the Open Doors 2017 report.  (Source:  US Department of Commerce)  Keep in mind that those data are from fall 2016 and are limited to higher education.

Let’s update and extrapolate using SEVIS data from December 2017.  This includes both higher education and secondary enrollment.  The latter refers to day and boarding schools.  And let’s use the same figure:  $36,456 per student.  

level-of-study-vn-12-17As of the end of 2017, there were 31,389 Vietnamese studying in the US.  Here’s the breakdown for the aforementioned categories:

  • Higher education:  23383 * $36,456 = $852,450,648 (Note:  This includes both undergraduate, graduate students and recent graduates with OPT status, taking into account that a sizable number of currently enrolled students at both levels receive varying levels of scholarship support.  Remember, this is about economic impact not the total amount being paid by Vietnamese parents for their children’s education and living costs in the US.)  
  • English language training:  2681 * $25,000 = $67,025,000  (This is a guesstimate, perhaps on the conservative side.) 
  • Secondary education:  4129 * $36,456 = $150,526,824  (I used the OD number.  This is a reasonable estimate knowing that many boarding schools are in the 40-55k range with day schools costing much less. (Feel free to question these figures, dear reader.  If I err, it is hopefully on the conservative side.)

Drum roll…  The total economic impact of Vietnamese students on the US economy is…   over $1 billion:  $1,070,002,472.  Now THAT’s significant economic impact.

This amount does not include other categories that involve Vietnamese nationals or their Vietnamese sponsors spending money in the US such as other vocational school (36), flight school (121), primary school (141), and other (898).  

The always popular issue of how much Vietnamese parents are spending on their children’s education and living expenses in the US is another matter.  One can assume that it’s a significant percentage of the total economic impact amount. 

Addendum:  The Vietnamese media routinely use the $3 billion figure when talking about how much parents spend on overseas study for their children.  Unlike fine wine, that number is not aging well with the passage of time.  In fact, the actual number is even higher, given the fact that there are more Vietnamese students than even studying abroad, including over 140,000 in the top five host countries alone:  1) Japan; 2) USA; 3) Australia; 4) China; and 5) the UK. 

MAA

Fiscal Year 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report- Department of Homeland Security

DHS logoA colleague recently sent me this report with the above title.  (Thank you, K!)  Yeah, I know; it’s not most people’s idea of a good time but it is interesting to wonks like me who follow these trends in the field (and industry) of international education.  Information is power, right?  OK, if not power, then at least it has the potential to give you more insights and the ability to make more accurate predictions than a crystal ball.

Here’s an excerpt from the report about the purpose of providing this data, at least on an annual basis:  This report analyzes the overstay rates to provide a better understanding of those who overstay and remain in the United States beyond their period of admission with no evidence of an extension to their period of admission or adjustment to another immigration status.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has determined that there were 50,437,278 in-scope nonimmigrant admissions to the United States through air or sea POEs who were expected to depart in FY 2016, which represents the majority of annual nonimmigrant admissions. Of this number, DHS calculated a total overstay rate of 1.47 percent, or 739,478 individuals. In other words, 98.53 percent of the in-scope nonimmigrant visitors departed the United States on time and abided by the terms of their admission

There are two categories: total overstay rate and suspected overstay rate.  Think of the latter as the net version of the former.  As the report points out, its purpose is “to provide a better picture of those overstays who remain in the United States beyond their period of admission and for whom there is no identifiable evidence of a departure, an extension of period of admission, or transition to another immigration status.”  In other words, these are the people who have simply disappeared, presumably to surface later with legal status.  Or not.  

At the end of FY 2016, there were 628,799 Suspected In-Country Overstays. The overall Suspected In-Country Overstay rate for this type of traveler is 1.25% of the expected departures.  When you consider that over 50 million foreigner visitors entered the US in FY16 and that 98.75% of them did indeed return home, that’s not too shabby.

The report is broken down into “nonimmigrants admitted to the United States for business or pleasure, i.e., B1 and B2 visas, and student and exchange visitors (F, M, and J visas).  The average suspected in-country overstay rate for FY 2016, excluding Canada, Mexico, and students, was 1.90%. 

sample visaFor Viet Nam it was 3.40%, or 79% higher than the national average.

Student and Exchange Visitor Visas (F, M, J) Excluding Canada and Mexico

Just to give you an idea of how Viet Nam compares to many other countries with students studying in the US, here is a list of some with much higher overstay rates in descending order.  Asian countries are in navy blue.

  1. Eritrea: 75.21% (117)
  2. Burkina Faso: 46.78% (699)
  3. Chad: 36.77% (68)
  4. Congo (Kinshasa): 36.56% (517)
  5. Djibouti: 33.33% (21)
  6. Libya: 31.85% (1,036)
  7. Congo (Brazzaville): 23.88% (201)
  8. Equatorial Guinea: 20.42% (284)
  9. Côte d’Ivoire: 17.09% (755)
  10. Ethiopia: 21.71% (1,110)
  11. Fiji: 15.84% (101)
  12. Gabon: 23.40% (406)
  13. The Gambia: 29.08% (196)
  14. Benin: 31.25% (400)
  15. Cameroon: 28.68% (889)
  16. North Korea: 27.27% (11)
  17. Togo: 26.14% (176)
  18. Guinea: 26.12% (157)
  19. Central African Republic: 25.93% (127)
  20. Moldova: 25.49% (2,299)
  21. Nepal: 23.50% (2,873)
  22. Nigeria: 22.74% (8,034)
  23. Bhutan: 22.42% (165)
  24. Burundi: 20.96% (167)
  25. Somalia: 20.00% (25)
  26. Cabo Verde: 18.40% (125)
  27. Mali: 17.19% (349)
  28. Iraq: 16.54% (1,300)
  29. Afghanistan: 15.83% (556)
  30. Kyrgyzstan: 14.41% (666)
  31. Malawi: 14.40% (250)
  32. Tajikistan: 13.37% (486)
  33. Liberia: 13.30% (218)
  34. Ukraine: 12.90% (826)
  35. Senegal: 12.59% (657)
  36. Guinea-Bissau: 12.50% (8)
  37. Serbia: 12.46% (4,800)
  38. Kenya: 12.28% (2,326)
  39. Niger: 12.07% (174)
  40. Papua New Guinea: 12.03% (158)
  41. Tonga: 11.29% (176)
  42. Bangladesh: 11.03% (3,237)
  43. Macedonia: 10.98% (1,658)
  44. Uganda: 10.65% (3,273)
  45. Syria: 10.35% (599)
  46. Sudan: 10.30% (304)
  47. Rwanda: 9.73% (997)
  48. Haiti: 9.67% (982)
  49. Uzbekistan: 9.48% (1,181)
  50. Mongolia: 9.44% (2,399)
  51. Zambia: 9.42% (414)
  52. Mauritania: 9.40% (117)
  53. Timor-Leste: 9.38% (32)
  54. Turkmenistan: 9.16% (371)
  55. Maldives: 8.11% (74)
  56. Sri Lanka: 8.74% (1,774)
  57. Burma (Myanmar):  8.59% (1,036)
  58. Namibia: 8.63% (139)
  59. Albania: 8.34% (779)
  60. Viet Nam: 8.15% (14,878)

Several points stand out. 

  1. While Viet Nam is at the lower end of the spectrum among these 60 countries in terms of percentage, it has one of the highest suspected in-country overstay rates in Asia.  In terms of numbers, 1,213 young Vietnamese were out-of-status last year.  Compare that to China, which ranks first in the number of students it sends to the US with 360,334 last year.  The suspected in-country overstay rate was only 2.09%.  The days of the brain drain are clearly over.  It’s obvious that quite a few young Vietnamese are using the F-1 (in most cases) as a backdoor means of emigration.  (This assertion is also based on anecdotal evidence.)
  2. Many of these countries have relatively few students in the US, i.e., fewer than 500.
  3. Many of the countries are war-torn and/or desperately poor, due to war and other factors.

Keep in mind that this percentage is higher in some parts of Viet Nam than others, i.e., those with people who have relatives in the US, mostly in the former Republic of Viet Nam (South Vietnam).  These data are reported to the US Mission, the Consulate in HCMC, in particular, and could have an impact on consular officers’ decisions for applicants coming from areas with a higher overstay rate.

Note:  Whenever I deal with statistics, I’m often reminded of the following quote, which was popularized by Mark Twain, who attributed it to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  Not included in the above statistics are international students who remain in the country legally, e.g., through marriage or a work (H1-B) visa.  Thus, neither country really knows how many young Vietnamese come home after completing their studies and/or an Optional Practical Training (OPT) work experience on a F-1 visa.  Another unknown variable is the number of graduates to move to a third country for study or work.    

MAA

 

The Wave Continues to Build: Vietnamese Students in the USA

vn 12-17
Source:  SEVIS (DHS)

According to the latest Mapping SEVIS by the Numbers update from last month, there are currently 31,389 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels of the education system.  (2.59% of all international students in the US are from Viet Nam.)  

Viet Nam remains in 5th place sandwiched between Saudi Arabia, which experienced the sharpest decline among the top 10 sending countries, and Canada, which saw a small increase from May 2017.  

Country          May 2017       December 2017         
 
China                362,370          382.908                      
India                 206,708          212,288                      
S. Korea            71,206            68,128                        
Saudi Arabia   55,810            49,298                        
Viet Nam         30,279            31,389                        
Canada             29,536            30,034                        
Japan                24,837            24,809                        
Taiwan             22,803            24,110                        
Brazil                21,768            23,901                        
Mexico              16,207            16,212                        

Here are two changes from the end of the 2016/17 academic year to now that likely signal trends:

1)  A decrease in the percentage of Vietnamese students enrolled in “language training” from 10.7% to 8.5%.   

2)  An increase in the percentage of Vietnamese undergraduates enrolled in four-year schools from 29.7% to 31.8%.  (To put this in perspective, 90% of all Vietnamese undergrads in the US were enrolled in a community college in 2009/10.)  

level of study vn 12-17
Source:  SEVIS (DHS)

The top 10 host states remained the same.  The only change is that Pennsylvania displaced Florida.  Massachusetts, which remained in 4th place, saw the most significant increase. 

student population by state 12-17
Source:  SEVIS (DHS)
  1. CA: 6175
  2. TX: 5232
  3. WA: 2548
  4. MA: 1815
  5. NY: 1396
  6. PA: 1276
  7. FL: 1223
  8. IL: 967
  9. VA: 889
  10. GA: 712

While there are Vietnamese students in all 50 states, 71%, rounded up, are studying in these 10 states, a statistically insignificant decrease from May 2017.  This, of course, means that 29% are in the remaining 40 states and Puerto Rico, which has one (1). 

To drill down a bit deeper, 44.45% are in California, Texas, and Washington state.  I discuss some of the reasons for this in a September 2017 article I wrote for VNExpress International.  (The bluer the state, the more Vietnamese students are studying there.)

Stay tuned for a post in which I analyze this information in light of other trends in what I refer to as the perfect storm of converging factors that include the recent spike in the number of Vietnamese students studying in Canada, increasing competition within and outside of the US, and various sociopolitical factors.

MAA

Viet Nam’s GDP & Study in the USA

Here are some graphs that I use in presentations to graphically illustrate Viet Nam’s meteoric economic rise in the past decade and then some.  The take-off phase began with my arrival in 2005, a mere coincidence, and perhaps an example of a word I often associate with Viet Nam, serendipity

The icing on the cake came in the form of a recent official report that revealed Viet Nam’s economy grew at the fastest rate in a decade, slightly above the government target of 6.7% and considerably higher than the 6.21% for 2016.  Much of the growth was driven by the agriculture, seafood and forestry sectors, according to the government’s General Statistics Office (GSO).

One thing to keep in mind, and that I never tire of mentioning, is that GDP growth doesn’t tell the whole story, much of which is occurring beneath the surface.  Since GDP is the total value of everything produced by all the people and companies in the country, both domestic and foreign, it doesn’t reflect total income and therefore total ability to pay. This doesn’t mean that all of this activity is illegal – some of it is the result of corruption, petty and massive – only that it is not factored into the aggregate GDP figure.

NOTE:  GDP data differ between different sources, i.e., the World Bank vs. the International Monetary Fund. 

vietnam-gdp
Source:  World Bank
444743
Source:  IMF

Not surprisingly, economic growth is closely linked to ability to pay, which is why the number of Vietnamese students studying overseas mirrors their country’s economic ascendancy. 

Compare the enrollment trends in the US below with the GDP graphs above.  Note:  Open Doors data are from fall 2016 and only for higher education.  According to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update from May 2017, there are 30,279 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels, mostly higher education.

enrollment trends
Source:  IIE Open Doors Reports

It is estimated that Vietnamese parents spend $3 billion on overseas study expenses for their children, a number commonly used in the media, but the actual figure is probably considerably higher.  Consider that families are already spending nearly $1 billion, rounded up, in the US alone.

MAA

Donald Trump & I Agree on Two Things

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President Trump’s limousine rounding the corner on 11 November i on its way to the Metropole Hotel downtown Hanoi

As we ease into the Solar New Year and look ahead with great anticipation to the 2018 Lunar New Year, here are some upbeat thoughts about Donald Trump’s November 2017 visit to Viet Nam.  Let’s start the year off on a happy note!

In the weeks leading up to President Trump’s visit to Viet Nam for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang and the state visit to Hanoi the following day, I was interviewed by several journalists about the education angle of Trump’s visit and some of his (anti-immigration) policies, real or imagined. 

One of my comments, a hope, in fact, was that Donald Trump would say and do the right things, both scripted and unscripted.  In other words, that he would behave himself.  This was for the sake of continued good relations between the two countries and also continued interest in the US as an overseas study destination.

Lo and behold, he did!  Here are two examples, points on which he and I are agreement.  It’s a rare moment so savor it!

Vietnamese students rank among the best students in the world.  This assertion was made in a his speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Danang.  While it was no doubt written by one of his staff with input from the US Mission in Viet Nam, that statement is generally true in terms of academic achievement and reputation at many secondary and postsecondary institutions in the US and other countries.  

Viet Nam is one of the great miracles of the world, a statement he made at a state banquet in Hanoi.  Since this was Trump’s very first trip to Viet Nam, my guess is that his (mis)perceptions about the country and what it would look like and be like clashed with the reality of what he saw from Air Force One and his limousine.  In other words, it blew his mind.  All of the construction, the businesses, the cars, the luxury cars, the motorbikes, etc. 

I agree because I have an inkling, based on what I’ve read, seen, and experienced in my over 12 years of living and working in Viet Nam, of just how much the Vietnamese and their country have overcome since the end of the American War, and how much progress they’ve made. 

pew research survey life better worse
Pew Research Center Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, a whopping 88% of Vietnamese said that life is better than it was 50 years ago, the most positive response in the world.  (That percentage is not surprising when you consider that 1967 was approaching the height of the American War in Viet Nam, a war in which 3.8 million Vietnamese ultimately perished, over half of them civilians.) 

Then there is Viet Nam’s tiger economy, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, which has improved the standard of living and the quality of life for most Vietnamese.  That explains the high level of economic confidence.  (US Americans, by contrast, said that life is worse now than it was 50 years ago by a margin of 41% to 37%.)  91% said the economic conditions are good.  Even if you’re only in Viet Nam for a few days on your first visit, you will sense this optimism, dynamism, and forward momentum. 

MAA

Postscript: I would describe President’s Trump’s reception on the streets of Hanoi as lukewarm.  There was some polite applause as his limousine drove by.  (Those applauding included tourists.)  The level of excitement didn’t compare to that of Barack Obama’s visit in May 2016 or Bill Clinton’s trip in November 2000.  It was more on par with George W. Bush’s visit to Hanoi in 2006 for APEC. 

IMG_3540IMG_3549

Viet Nam Ranks Among Top 10 Foreign Residential Property Buyers in the US

major foreign buyers in US
Source: 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, NAR

Yes, I know this is old news from the summer of 2017 but it’s related to some other recent posts and perhaps not so old for some of you with an interest in these issues and trends.  It’s also related to one of my favorite topics, young Vietnamese studying in the USA. 

According to the 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate (PDF download), compiled by the National Association of (US) Realtors (NAR), Viet Nam ranked 9th in 2016-17, to be precise, after Germany with Japan rounding out the top 10.  Between April 2016 and March 2017, Vietnamese purchased about 5,689 residential properties in the US, double the number of transactions in the previous year. 

The total amount was an estimated $3 billion out of $153 billion worth of US residential property acquired by foreign investors during the same period.  (Non-resident foreign
buyers purchased $78.1 billion of property, while resident foreign buyers purchased $74.9 billion worth.)  Not surprisingly, based on where most Vietnamese-Americans live and other reasons, Vietnamese investors preferred California, Florida, and Texas. 

property2
Vietnam’s population of ultra-high-net-worth individuals has the highest growth rate in the world. Source: Knight Frank

Reasons include the following:

  • one of the fastest-growing economies in the world
  • the fastest-growing percentage of ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the world between now and 2026, according to the The Wealth Report 2017 by Knight Frank
  • the Vietnamese tendency to hedge their bets in the face of perceived or actual instability
  • the high number of Vietnamese young people studying in the US and the desire of many parents of means to buy a place for them to stay and as an investment
  • the relatively high number of EB-5 cases (related to the above)

MAA