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?

Public Debt as Temporary Burden & Long-Term Capital Investment

logoViet Nam’s infrastructure, including its roads, bridges, and airports, plays a major role in the country’s continued economic development.  Japan – through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is the top ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) sponsor to Viet Nam.  ODA is a key part of its visionary foreign policy for Viet Nam in particular and Southeast Asia in general.  (Follow this link to view a JICA map of its nationwide activities as of 25 July 2019.)  

After arriving at the Noi Bai International Airport Terminal 2 the other day, I noticed this plaque just outside the exit.  

noi bai terminal 2

This $900 million dollar project was begun in December 2011 and completed in 2014.  It’s a notable example of ODA projects that have either been completed or are currently in progress around the country. 

According to this 4 December 2011 JICA press release, it was considered to be “one of the most important transport infrastructure projects being implemented with Japan’s ODA.”  The Noi Bai-Nhat Tan expressway and Nhat Tan bridge were built at the same time.  All three projects made life much easier and more convenient for the legion of Vietnamese and foreign passengers arriving and departing from Hanoi.  

Public debt, like reasonable levels of personal debt resulting from solid long-term investments, makes possible what would otherwise be impossible in the here and now.  It is a frequent topic of discussion in the media, both positive (a key driver of economic growth) and negative (a risk and potential obstacle to the same). 

On the bright side, Viet Nam’s public debt is the lowest level since 2015.  Specifically, the Viet Nam Ministry of Finance estimates public debt at the end of 2018 at 58.4% of GDP, or $136.75 billion.  (Compare that with the US, where the national debt of $22 trillion is a staggering 107% of GDP.)  As of December 2018, 90% of Viet Nam’s bonds had a maturity period of over 10 years, with the average maturity period for all bonds coming to 12.7 years.

The Noi Bai International Airport Terminal 2 is one small piece of that multi-billion dollar puzzle.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

 

 

A Widening Crack in the Wall of Viet Nam’s Tourism Industry?

How to kill tourism in one easy step

I stumbled upon the following 29 July 2019 post with photos on the Danang & Hoi An Foreign Expats Facebook group, of which I’m a lurking member:  I wouldn’t be swimming anywhere near Apocalypse Now Beach Club in the next few days. Huge outpouring of sewage into the ocean. – AM

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Below are some of the more pointed (and slightly edited) comments by both expats and Vietnamese:   

PTA:  I’m a local here and stopped swimming 2-3 years ago. 😦  It is a bad thing when you live on the beach, you can’t swim.

BP:  Local Govt needs to fix all sewage flowing into ocean and collecting all rubbish on the beach and floating offshore everyday and make the beach and water as nice as they advertise which in reality is exactly the opposite.

RMM:  That drainage channel was fully extended to the sea by steam shovel this morning. They must have known that the rain was coming.

AM: You should have seen the paragliding guys running for their life. The sewage came so fast and just engulfed the whole area.

VK:  Show this to the tourist, they wont pay a penny on that hotel again.

TR:  How to kill tourism in one easy step. This has been going on for years…  Who the hell would want to spend their hard earned money on a place like this?

WC:  And you wonder why tourists don’t come back to VN?!?

LD:  My God, terrible smell on the beach today.

This 2017 article entitled Da Nang’s beautiful beaches under threat as sewage streams into the ocean sums it up.  It’s 2019 and nothing has changed.  Warning:  Don’t look at the photos on a full stomach.  

This issue has reared its ugly head in other locations in Viet Nam, including Nha Trang.  Last fall, sewage was being discharged directly into Nha Trang Bay, the result of an overloaded local pumping station.  

Over the past 10-15 years, billions of dollars have been invested in resorts up and down Viet Nam’s long and scenic coastline.  Tourism is a significant source of revenue for the country and tourists continue to flock to Viet Nam in record numbers.  2018 revenue was estimated at $26.5 billion, 11% of the country’s nominal GDP.  Last year, 15.6 million tourists visited Viet Nam, up from 2.1 million in 2000.  That’s a 638% increase in 18 years.  In addition, there were 80 million domestic tourists, an increase of 6.8 million over 2017, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.  

Here’s the bottom line, quite literally:  If the county, at the local, provincial, and national level, does not solve the pollution problem, word will (continue to) spread that the beaches are dirty and the water is polluted, which means tourists will begin to look elsewhere for a quality vacation.  Hotel occupancy rates will plummet and restaurants and other ancillary business will see fewer customers. 

Think of reputation as a container ship reversing direction on the high seas.  It will take an exceedingly long time to persuade tourists from all over the world that the beaches and the water are once again clean, not to mention actually making that idyllic scenario a reality.  

To further complicate matters, many foreigners who visit Viet Nam don’t return.  I’ve seen estimates that range from 70% to 90%.  Environmental pollution will give newcomers yet another reason to follow suit.  The short-sighted obsession with short-term profit has to stop.  Unless something is done very soon, the tourism party is going to be over for Viet Nam.  Change should come for the sake of the environment and all of us who share it.  If it comes because of the prospect of plummeting revenue, I’ll take it.  Same end result, a cleaner environment.  

Full disclosure:  I do not swim in the sea in Danang, Nha Trang, and other well-known resort cities.  Now you know why.  I know too much.  While ignorance is not bliss, the truth can sometimes be painful and sad.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“Global garment firms no longer bullish on Vietnam as costs rise”

So goes the title of a recent article about international textile companies operating in Viet Nam.  The first thought that always pops into my head whenever I read about rising labor costs is how much by local standards and how much is enough in terms of net profit?  Why not pay your employees a living wage and stop exploiting them in the name of a fatter bottom line? 

That, of course, is one of the fundamental problems with global capitalism.  Low labor costs used to be a major selling point for Viet Nam.  There’s nothing wrong with low labor costs by international standards if the local wage is more than enough to live on. 

As the article notes, Vietnam raised its minimum wage by an average of 5.3% last January to VND 4.18 million ($181).  I can assure you that $181 a month for a back-breaking job is not very much, not in 2019.  

Here’s an example that illustrates just how large the profit margin is in the clothing industry.  You can go to a market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia that sells Dockers pants, among many other products, and get a pair for $12, bargained down from $16.  The seller probably still makes 100% profit for slacks that sell for $50 or $60 in the US.  I mentioned that to a saleswoman in the men’s section of a Macy’s in the US and she just gave me a blank stare.  Minus source and destination country overhead and shipping costs, that’s still a huge profit. 

The silver lining in this rather dark and ominous cloud is that these greedy companies will eventually run out of countries and workers to exploit.  Maybe not in my lifetime but it will happen.  People over profit!  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Mark Ashwill @ NAFSA 2019

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Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m excited to inform you that I’ll be participating in four (4) events at the NAFSA 2019 annual conference in late May in Washington, D.C., listed below in descending chronological order.  Note:  Online registration is required for the two seminars.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA


4th Annual Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar at NAFSA 2019 (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27th from 1-3 p.m. in Washington, D.C.)

The Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar consists of a comprehensive overview of current market conditions, recruitment tools and techniques, and different types of recruitment strategies, plus plenty of time for Q&A.  These are challenging times for international student recruitment, including in Viet Nam, with a rapidly changing market and more competition than ever. While more Vietnamese students are opting to study overseas, a perfect storm has been brewing for some host countries, combined with a growing list of positives and pull factors for others.

The reason I began offering this free seminar starting in 2016 in Denver was that I noticed that Viet Nam, a strategically important country, was underrepresented, if represented at all, at NAFSA annual conferences.  This year is no exception.  Enter “Vietnam” in a keyword search in the conference schedule and let me know what you find.  

Please follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Ethical Commissions-Based Recruitment: The Need for a New Way (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27 from 3:30-5 p.m. in Washington, D.C.)

Join me, Eddie West, assistant dean, UC Berkeley Extension, and executive director, international programs, and former director of international initiatives at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and Lindsay Addington, director of global engagement at NACAC, for a brief presentation and collective exploration of ways to improve upon the current flawed model of agency-based international student recruitment. 

The raison d’être for this seminar is a statement Eddie and I made in an October 2018 University World News article entitled An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment

The fatal flaw in commissioned recruitment is that most agents prioritise their partner schools’ interests over those of the students and parents they advise. This means that most guide or, in many cases, drive students to their partner schools because of the gold (commission) at the end of the rainbow (enrolment process). 

The purpose is not to debate the merits of commissions-based recruitment but to bring together colleagues who are interested in exploring ways in which it can be made more ethical to the benefit of international students and their parents, in addition to admitting institutions and education agents. 

Follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Commissions-Based International Student Recruitment Agents: Is There a Better Way?  (Wednesday, May 29 from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.)

AC19_Email_Sigs_PresenterJoin me, Eddie West, session chair and executive director, international programs, University of California-Berkeley Extension, and Mayumi Kowta, director, international programs, California State University Channel Islands, for a lively discussion about how the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment can be addressed.  
 
Follow this link to see the official conference description of our session, including the abstract and the learning objectives.  This is a condensed version of the Monday seminar.  


Vietnamese Student Recruitment in Challenging Times  (Wednesday, May 29 from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Model Practices in International Enrollment Management Poster Fair)

Here’s the password-protected session page with resources.  It will be made available to those who stop by.

Abstract

Gain knowledge and insights from a foreign international educator and education entrepreneur who has lived and worked in Viet Nam since 2005. This poster session will focus on how to create and implement a proactive recruitment strategy that includes commission-based recruitment, armchair tools and techniques, and in country activities.

Poster Content: Takeaways

1) an update on the status of young Vietnamese studying overseas, including information changes in country preference;
2) an inventory and description of various non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques; and
3) some information and caveats about commissions-based recruitment.

Learning Objectives

1) Learn about recent facts, figures, and trends related to Vietnamese students studying overseas at both the secondary and postsecondary levels;
2) learn about a wide variety of recruitment tools and techniques, most unrelated to the use of education agents;
3) be well-positioned to either improve fine-tune an existing recruitment strategy or create a new one.  

“The shift of Vietnamese students to Canada marches on”

20190320083629583_5Here is my latest essay for University World News.  If you like the teaser below, follow this link to read the article in its entirety.  This is a follow-up to an April 2018 article I wrote entitled Vietnamese students look at the US and head north (editor’s title).  

I placed a gentleman’s bet with myself that the number of young Vietnamese studying in Canada would top 20,000 last year. Based on the latest statistics for 2018 released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it looks like I won, much to the dismay of Canada’s main friendly competitor for Vietnamese students, the United States of America. 

Shalom (שלום), MAA