10 Criteria to Consider for Outsourcing Your International Credential Evaluation Needs

June 22nd, 2018

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In our previous blog, we wrote about the benefits of outsourcing international credential evaluations. In this week’s blog, we’d like to share with you the criteria you need to consider if your institution is looking to outsource its international credential evaluations.
With the need for increasing content and authenticity in the evaluation process comes the need for more education, training and experience on the part of the credential evaluator. Institutions seeking to outsource their international credential evaluations are advised to select one service or multiple services by requesting the following:

1. Membership

Is the credential evaluation agency an Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE)?

The Association of International Credential Evaluators is a non-profit professional association with unique set of criteria which employs a rigorous screening process in determining the eligibility of providers of international credential evaluation services to Endorsed membership. The AICE has published evaluation standards to which its members subscribe and conform to promote consistency and transparency in educational equivalency reporting.

2. Years of Operation

Does the credential evaluation agency have a proven record of experience in the field?

Find out when the agency was established and how long it has been in operation. Number of years of operation as a credential evaluation service provider demonstrates longevity and continuity in a field where fluctuations in the market due to economic and political events affects the solvency of a company and its ability to work with credentials from around the world.

3. Standards

What evaluation standards and procedures does the credential evaluation agency employ in evaluating and determining U.S. educational equivalences?

It is important to find out the standards the evaluation agency uses in evaluating credentials to derive at U.S. educational equivalences. Does your institution have any guidelines in place when assessing international credentials? Are the standards used by the evaluation agency in line with your institution’s? If your institution doesn’t have any particular standards on evaluating international credentials, we recommend you refer to the AICE Evaluation Standards for guidelines.

4. Experience

Request and review a profile of the evaluation agency’s executive and evaluation staff.

This information will help you assess the expertise and experience of the agency’s evaluation staff. It will also help you outline the methods the agency employs for its evaluators to receive continuous professional development.

5. Services

What types of evaluation reports are provided by the credential evaluation agency?

It is important to determine the different types of evaluation reports the credential evaluation service provides to see if they are able to accommodate your institution’s needs.

6. Required Documents

What criteria does the evaluation company have in place in accepting academic documents?

It’s important to find out whether the evaluation company accepts official transcripts directly from the source institution, or original (“first-issued”) documents in the student’s possessions, photocopies or scanned documents submitted by students, or transcripts received electronically from the source institution.

7. Processing Time

How long does it take for the evaluation agency to complete an evaluation?

The number of days an evaluation agency requires to complete an evaluation plays a significant part in the overall picture when a student’s application for admission is contingent on the evaluation report. You must determine the actual number of days it takes an agency to complete the evaluation and not the estimated time. For example, an agency may claim a 10-day processing time but in practice it takes 20 or 30 or more days to complete its evaluation reports.

8. Library/Information Resources

What steps does the evaluation agency take in maintaining a dynamic in-house library?

A credential evaluation agency and the evaluation reports it generates are as good as its reference library. Maintaining an in-house library is one of the most important criteria in qualifying for Endorsed Membership with the Association of International Credential Evaluators. An in-house library that has in its collection historic and current publications and reference materials is the backbone of a full-service reputable evaluation agency.

9. Website & Information

Does the evaluation company have a website that is user-friendly and informative?

A website serves as the portal to a company’s operation and services. An effective website must include information that is clear and transparent about its services, fees and procedures.

10. Customer/Client Relations

How helpful and knowledgeable is the evaluation company’s staff?

And, last but not least, building a relationship with an evaluation company where you are confident that your institution’s needs and those of your international students are not ignored but handled in a timely and professional matter is essential. It is good to call the evaluation company and see if you are greeted by a friendly representative able and willing to answer your questions. If you emailed the company, how soon was your email answered?

In closing, by selecting a reputable evaluation service with proven years of experience, you are ensured the most up-to-date evaluation standards and practices. Indirectly, outsourcing also gives you access to the evaluation service’s resources: its library, database, knowledge and experience, online tools, and training. Finally, building a relationship with a credential evaluation agency creates an understanding between the parties that allows the agency to incorporate any special institutional needs into the evaluation. An on-going relationship with an evaluation service leads to consistency in the placement of students over time and across educational systems. It also provides the institution with an expert resource to consult when questions arise about credentials and placement.

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Give Me Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Huddled Masses…

June 15th, 2018

liberty

My heart is very heavy as I write this blog.  Doing what I do, keeps me on the front of lines of the immigration crisis.  And, even though I’m dealing with those who are here in the U.S. through legal channels, I sense their angst, working under duress to make sure their documents get processed correctly and quickly.  Their stress is contagious.  No matter how much of a jaded international education professional you may have become, you’d have to be made of stone, if you are not concerned about their plight and don’t empathize.  I’m seeing the negative anti-immigration rhetoric of our government cast such a dark cloud over our nation that even those who want to come to America legally–whether to study, immigrate or work–are too afraid, and frankly turned off, to do so.

If you’ve been watching, reading or listening to the news, you can’t say that you are unaware of the latest steps the US Border Patrol is taking against immigrants entering the U.S. illegally.  They are separating children from their parents and literally placing them inside cages for an indeterminate time while their parents are kept in detention cells awaiting hearings before an immigration judge.  U.S. Border Patrol officials saying they’re following orders from the Justice Department and the Justice Department says it’s enforcing the law.

We’ve also now learned that about 1,500 children who had arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied a couple of years ago, and were assigned to foster care or some form of care, are now “lost” in the system and cannot be accounted for by the U.S. immigration.

If we don’t speak up and against the callous treatment of these immigrants and demand more humane measures, we will be spiraling into a very dark and fetid place, and it will happen much faster than we’d like to think.

For a minute, put aside your political party affiliation, and imagine yourself as neither a democrat or republican or independent, but a small child arriving inside the borders of the U.S. to be immediately separated from his or her parents. For a minute, imagine yourself as the father or mother whose child was taken away under the guise that he was going to be bathed and fed but to never see your child again and not be told of his whereabouts or welfare. Let this image sink in.

Now, imagine you live in a country where law and order are seriously compromised by crime, where corruption and a weak legal system and ineffective law enforcement is the norm, where you fear for your life and the lives of your loved ones and where you cannot turn to the police and the law for protection and justice. Imagine that this situation is further compounded by a dysfunctional economy, where you struggle to eke out a daily wage to feed your family and keep a roof above your head, where you are a victim of extortion by those very criminals who promise to offer you and your family or your neighborhood protection who take away from you the meager earnings you have made. Imagine living under a totalitarian system where you have no civil rights and can be arrested for reading a book, a pamphlet, a newspaper article or listening to a radio broadcast, or following sites on social media which the authorities consider unpatriotic, subversive, anti establishment.  Imagine living under a constant state of fear and threat for your life and your loved ones.  Imagine living in a country that’s under siege of a civil war or war with another country or countries.  Imagine bombs falling and exploding around you every day.  Imagine seeing your friends, a sibling, a relative, a parent, next door neighbor, a classmate, killed by gun fire or explosives.  Imagine food shortages, or the absence of food and fuel.  What would you do? How long would you be able to tolerate this existence?

Now imagine gathering what meager belongings you may have and what little money, if any, you may have saved to flee the violent conditions in your homeland with your spouse and child. Imagine going through one obstacle course after another, paying off those who have promised your escape, battling the elements as you and your family cross harsh terrains whether over land or sea, by foot, or on boat to finally reach the country you have heard will receive you and offer you shelter, protection, and the promise of a new life.

Imagine crossing the border into the land built on the backs of slaves, illegal and legal immigrants, which prides itself on its rich immigrant and multicultural history.  No sooner have your feet touched the soil of this promised land, imagine being split apart from your spouse and child and taken away without a goodbye or embrace and kept in a cell in a detention center along with others sharing your same predicament.  You sit and wait without news of your child’s welfare for days, weeks, and months.

This is what is happening today, in the USA.  Thousands of immigrant children cannot be traced by the system that was supposed to watch over them, and hundreds of immigrant children are being taken away from their parents by US border patrol officials and kept in caged cells. Let this sink in.

This is not the America that drew to its shores the hungry, the poor, the wretched, the seekers, and prospectors, the explorers and wanderers, the men and women who came from all corners of the world in search of a better life and new opportunities.

Let’s remind ourselves of Emma Lazarus’s famous sonnet “The New Colossus,” written in 1883 for an auction to raise funds for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 – Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus’s sonnet was inspired by the Statue of Liberty for its optimistic message to the world’s disenfranchised people. Let us be the beacon of light she wrote about. Let us be the Mother of Exiles.

Stay Informed!

  • Do you want to know what happens when children are separated from their parents by US Border Patrol Officer? Click here and find out.
  • Do you want to know what happened after the children of a Honduran man were taken away from him and he was separated from his family? Click here and find out.

 Take Action!

  • Do you want to be informed and know what you can do? Click here and find out.
  • Do you want to help? Click here and find out.
  • How to help migrant parents and children who are separated at the border? Click here and find out.
  • And, don’t forget to CALL YOUR SENATORS! Click here and you’ll be directed to your representative’s office.

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)
President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)
Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit http://www.acei-global.org.

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6 Benefits of Outsourcing Your Institution’s Credentials Evaluation Needs

June 8th, 2018

outsource

At the recent NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference in Philadelphia, PA (May 27-June1, 2018), ACEI President & CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, and Aleks Morawski, Director of Evaluation Services at Foreign Credits, moderated a forum and shared their expertise on the benefits of outsourcing credential evaluations versus doing evaluations in house.  NAFSA had additional similar presentations on its conference program that concentrated on this same topic, so we felt it would be befitting to share with you a blog we had written back in 2016 that continues to be relevant today.  ACEI and Foreign Credits are both Endorsed Members of the Association of International Credential Evaluators, Inc. (AICE), a non-profit professional association for organizations providing credential evaluation services recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Unlike many countries in the world, the United States does not have a Ministry of Education or a centralized government body that oversees the country’s entire education system. The federal or national government of the U.S. does not have authority over education at any level. The task of evaluating the credentials of internationals mainly rests with private non-governmental agencies.

As the world’s leading host country of international students and scholars, institutions within the U.S. can either look into ways of funding evaluation services internally or outsourcing them to an evaluation agency. Some educational institutions—typically with a large international population—have a tradition of providing international credential evaluations as part of the admissions process and are fully equipped to do so. Others, however, do not have an evaluation process in place and yet face increasing numbers of students and immigrants who have studied outside the U.S. For the latter, outsourcing foreign credential evaluations can be an excellent and helpful option.

The pros of doing evaluations in-house by some institutions appear to be based on the belief that they have control over the process from start to finish, that their equivalency decisions are consistent, and that they are able to reach these decisions based on the knowledge they have of their institution’s policies. Many of the deterrents or cons to preparing credential evaluations in-house are financial, lack of experienced evaluators and access to a robust reference library containing historic and current reference material and publications on world education systems.

The benefits of outsourcing your institution’s international credential evaluations can be summarized as the following:

  1. Savings – If the student obtains and pays for an evaluation provided by an evaluation service, it costs the institution nothing. In addition, the cost for an evaluation which is between $95 – $185 is a miniscule faction of the cost the student will have to pay for tuition at the institution but the benefits to the student are ten fold in that they may receive transfer credit for their evaluated coursework and/or be admitted to an advanced program based on their previous studies and avoid having to start their education over. In the case of an individual seeking employment or professional certification, the cost for the evaluation is also a miniscule fraction of what their future earnings will be based on the employment they are able to secure and/or the license they will receive to practice their field.
  1. Time – The time dedicated to evaluating credentials which requires the vetting of the documents and verifying their authenticity, researching the education system to determine the status of the institution, length and level of the program studied, grading practices, and course description can be directed to focus on the other critical tasks in the admission office.
  1. Resources – The resources that would have gone into creating an evaluation department which includes hiring and training of personnel, funding continuing education, building a resource library, tracking changes in educational systems, verifying the authenticity of documentation, collecting and maintaining a database of documentation and evaluations, will be available for recruiting, selecting, admitting, and advising students.
  1. Multi-Purpose – Both the international candidate and U.S. institution receive an objective evaluation of the individual’s academic achievement that can be used in the future by the candidate for purposes such as immigration, employment, graduate or doctoral study at another U.S. institution, or professional licensing.
  1. Manage Risk – Protecting your institution or organization from fraudulent documentation and misrepresentation that can jeopardize reputation and accreditation. By allowing experienced professionals with in-depth knowledge of world education systems and hands-on experience of evaluating academic credentials you will protect your institution against fraud.
  1. Access to Expertise – An indirect benefit of outsourcing your international credential evaluation needs is that it gives you access to the evaluation company’s resources such as its knowledge and experience, online tools and training.

The continued flow of internationals coming to the U.S. for further education, career and economic advancement necessitates the evaluation of their academic credentials. An on-going relationship with an evaluation service leads to consistency in the placement of students over time and across educational systems. It also provides the institution with an expert resource to consult when questions arise about credentials and placement.

In our next blog we will share what criteria you need to employ when selecting a service to outsource your international credential evaluations.

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Polyglot and Proud of It!

June 1st, 2018

polygot

Yesterday, a male applicant from Mexico in his mid-50’s stopped by the office to drop off his documents. I overhead him speaking with a couple of our evaluators in Spanish. He had studied communications at the university and worked as a journalist for TV and print media in Mexico. I walked over and introduced myself, in Spanish. The life of a journalist or “periodista” in Mexico is hazardous, in fact, deadly. Outside of conflict zones, Mexico takes the No. 1 spot for journalists murdered in 2017. We spoke more about the dangers of being a journalist and how much he loved what he did but he also valued his life and the need to protect his family. He told us that he heads a professional association for “periodistas” who have been driven out of Mexico after either receiving death threats or seeing the writing on the wall before the grim inevitable was to pay them a visit.

English Only Scare Tactics

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Lately, the news chatter here in the U.S. is about citizens, tourists, visitors being harassed for speaking a language other than English. It’s what happens when a person reacts out of fear, out of ignorance, and I mean ignorance as in the not-knowing, or willfully choosing not to take the time to know and educate oneself. It brings out the ugly, the racist, the xenophobe in the person.

Embracing Multilingualism

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At, ACEI, we pride ourselves on being polyglots. We have native and non-native speakers of Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Farsi, Armenian, Russian, Italian, Moldovan, Croatian, Chinese, Turkish, and what we like to call “credentialese”. Our applicants appreciate our multilingualism and it is also good practice for those of us who don’t get to use their French, German, or whatever second or third foreign language it was we’d studied in college.

The expression on our Mexican applicant’s face was of pure joy when he heard not one but three people in our office who are not all native speakers of Spanish speaking to him in his native tongue, some haltingly, and some effortlessly. But everyone made the effort and that is how we learned about him and his plight. He, in turn, felt welcomed and more importantly, safe.

We don’t need to limit ourselves to speaking one language when engaging with people. We can keep English as our primary accepted language to conduct our business, but we need not feel afraid to switch to another language if we choose to do so. I don’t want to be intimidated or harassed when I chat in Armenian and Farsi interspersed with English with my mother in public, or French, or Spanish with an out of town friend or visitor.

Multilingualism and Brain Evolution

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Each day, studies show how knowing more languages is good for our overall mental health. As noted in a BBC report, most people in the world speak more than one language, suggesting the human brain evolved in multiple tongues. The human brain has evolved to be multilingual. I don’t claim to be a scientist, but I’ll hazard a guess that embracing monolingualism isn’t good for our brain; it impedes our brain’s evolution.

We need to put the ugly back inside the bottle load it into a space capsule and shoot into a galaxy far, far, and away.

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)
President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)
Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit http://www.acei-global.org.

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Where have all the international students gone? Far…far…away? Maybe not.

May 25th, 2018

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Every day, those of us who are in international education, especially, those of us working at institutions and organizations in the USA, hear nothing but negative news about the decline in the number of international students studying at our colleges and universities. Many of us anticipated that this was going to happen as soon as Donald Trump took office. Our concerns were confirmed with the first roll out of the travel ban in January 2018 which caused immediate confusion and havoc at our airports and borders. The anti-immigration sentiments and a general distaste for “internationalism” or “globalism” vocalized by the Trump administration has given many parents of potential international students pause and reason to consider another destination for their child’s study abroad experience.

We know that international students, as stated by Stuart Anderson states in his March 3, 2018 article in Forbes, have been “America’s golden goose” contributing billions of dollars ($39 billion to be exact) to the U.S. economy every year. In fact, it is these very dollars that have helped subsidize the education of U.S.(domestic) students and attract international talent to American tech companies who have been instrumental in innovations that make the U.S. the envy of the world.
Given the economic value of international students, it is baffling that the agenda of the Trump Presidency that ran on a platform to run the country as a business, is in fact hurting this revenue flow by driving away international students who had once hoped to study in the U.S.

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Source: National Science Foundation, Science Engineering Indicators 2018.

In his article for Forbes, Mr. Anderson breaks down the various measures taken by the Trump Administration which have negatively impacted international student numbers which I will highlight below:

•   Stricter guidelines to obtain H-1B visas, proposals to eliminate work authorization for the spouses of H1-B visa holders, and long waits to obtain employment-based green cards have led to a 21% drop in students from India enrolling in graduate level programs in computer science and engineering at U.S. institutions;

•  Proposed restrictions on Optional Practical Training (OPT); the ability of international students to work after graduation, which allows for 12 months of work for students, especially those in STEM fields;

•  Finally, individuals who previously worked for organizations or Senators with animus toward international students and employment-based immigration currently hold key positions dealing with immigration policy within the executive branch.

U.S. institutions of higher education are already feeling the sting. Sara Beverage with the Registrar’s Office at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD), confirms that her institution has experienced a slight decrease in the international student numbers which she attributes to “recent federal policy changes and the way that the global community less favorable perceives the United States.”

Zepur Solakian, President of the Center for the Global Advancement of Community Colleges (CGACC), attributes the decline in international student numbers to a number of factors such as: “…the current political climate as messaged by the Trump administration, as well as the termination of the Saudi and Brazilian scholarship programs and the rise in global competition.”
This was echoed by Melissa Goodwin, Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Idaho. According to Ms. Goodwin: “Since 2014, we have experienced a general decline due to changes in the government-sponsored programs in both Brazil and Saudi Arabia—this could still be having an effect on our numbers.”

When asked about international student numbers, a colleague who is involved in international admissions at a California-based private institution says that though “total enrollment has been steady, enrollment for the language program has significantly declined.” She believes this is because “markets for intensive English program seekers have shrunk and creating programs that are career focused have been slow.” When asked what her institution is doing to help international students feel welcomed, she notes “we have increased the amount of need-base scholarships, but I cannot say that we are doing anything new.”

The decline in international student numbers means loss in revenue which translates into budget cuts and a reduction in course offerings, and less financial support for domestic students. International students think with their feet and they think fast. They are looking at other “friendlier” countries to pursue their higher education and they are not disappointed. International competitors vying for the same pool of students have also intensified their recruiting strategies.

As the U.S. government pushes on with stricter and restrictive guidelines, other countries are stepping in and taking advantage of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration rhetoric. Countries such as Canada, Australia, China, Spain, France, United Kingdom, and New Zealand are aggressively marketing their higher education institutions and recruiting the international student and faculty who would have typically come to the U.S.

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Just last week at the two-day Bilateral Seminar I attended at the French Embassy in Washington, DC, I listened to my French counterparts as they rolled out their country’s plans to lure scientists, researchers and students from around the world, including the U.S. by subsidizing their research (through President Macron’s Make Our Planet Great Again initiative) and by offering free tuition at their public institutions, paid internships, and other perks.

But, U.S. universities are not resting on their laurels and giving up. They are taking proactive measures by continuing their recruitment efforts and retention of international students. For example, Ms. Beverage shares her institution’s commitment: “UMD’s leadership has tasked the entire community to commit more energy, time, and resources to the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan. I think it is noteworthy that Goals 2 and 6 fully support UMD’s dedication to creating globally engaged citizens. Also, another concrete example of how UMD is promoting a welcoming environment for international students is the recent formation of the Commission on Equity, Race, and Ethnicity (CERE). The Commission on Equity, Race, & Ethnicity (CERE) works to create an equitable campus community for people of all racial, ethnic, and intersecting identities through providing education and advocating for institutional change.”

Ms. Goodwin cites that the University of Idaho and the city of Moscow “have a long tradition of embracing our international students and taking every step possible to ensure they feel safe.” Universities and communities working together are the key to ensure a welcoming and student friendly, whether domestic or international, campus. Ms. Goodwin notes: “Although our town has always been invested in the university and its diversity (most community members either attended, have family who attended, or work on campus—or all of these), signs began appearing in yards throughout Moscow last summer reading “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Spanish and Arabic.”

The University of Idaho has a robust plan to attract international students. “We regularly travel to and participate in recruitment fairs, conferences, and school visits, and our international agent network extends throughout the world. We also work to initiate and establish partnerships with high schools and universities throughout the world which allow international students to seamlessly transfer here, while also promoting the exchange of our local students in other countries,” cites Ms. Alicia Case, International Recruiter at the University of Idaho. In addition, Ms. Case notes that “In 2017, we signed on with global education partner Navitas, allowing us to establish our Global Student Success program which further prepares students for success at UI, providing intercultural training, learning strategies, and English language support alongside their classwork. More information here: https://www.uidaho.edu/news/here-we-have-idaho-magazine/past-issues/2017-fall/navitas.”

Despite the factors cited by Ms. Solakian that have impacted the international student numbers, she believes that the U.S. still provides more opportunities for higher education as well as OPT to international students. “It is high time for all U.S. institutions to advocate the opportunities in the U.S. and show parents and students that we are still very welcoming and the best choice,” she concludes.

I will close with the following statement reported by Politico from University of California President Janet Napolitano, who served as Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration:

“American education has always led the world — and it still leads the world, and it should lead the world. But we are leading the world in an atmosphere where the White House, at least, is sending a very kind of ‘stay away’ message — and that’s a challenge.”

If you work at a U.S. college or university, I invite you to share with us your institution’s experience in how it is responding to the current decline in international student numbers and steps taken to help international students feel welcomed.

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)
President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)
Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative: Bilateral Seminar May 14-15, 2018 Embassy of France, Washington, D.C.

May 17th, 2018

transatlantic

At the invitation of the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of attending The Bilateral Seminar on The Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative, on May 14-15, 2018. I was joined by my AACRAO colleagues, Melanie Gottlieb and Julia Funaki, and fellow AACRAO IESC (International Education Standards Council) member, Robert Watkins from the University of Texas, Austin.

The Seminar was appropriately timed with the 70th Anniversary of the Franco-American Fulbright Commission (officially, the Commission franco-américaine d’échanges universitaires et culturels), a bi-national commission established between the United States of American and the French Republic by the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-256) and the Franco-American Treaty of May 7, 1965.  The Commission administers the Fulbright Program in France and operates the US State Department’s EducationUSA advising center for France. Those in attendance included representatives from the various branches of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI), officials from the French Embassy and French Consular Officers in the U.S., University Vice-Presidents from French institutions, representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.

From the onset, we learned that France is investing heavily in upgrading its university system and is aiming to position itself on the cutting edge of research and innovation. In his opening remarks, Frédéric Forest, Ph.D., the Deputy Director, Directorate General for Higher Education and Professional Integration at the MESRI, spoke of the importance the French President, Emmanuel Macron is placing on science and technology.  He noted that France is investing massively in its higher education.  It’s worth noting that in 2018, the French government spent roughly 72 billion euros for education; the second highest ranking expenditure on the budget after tax repayment and abatement and before defense.

Reforms also include access to higher education and reinforcing student mobility. France is committed to double the number of U.S. students studying at its HEIs and the same to have its students attending U.S. HEIs.  Dr. Forest concluded that France and the U.S. Department of State signed a declaration supporting these bilateral initiatives that encourage student mobility between the two countries.

Goals of the Bilateral Seminar

The goals of the Bilateral Seminar were laid out by Minh-Ha Pham, Ph.D., Scientific Counselor at the Embassy of France in the U.S.  Echoing, Dr. Forest’s remarks, Dr. Pham noted that in 2014, U.S. and France signed a declaration to double the numbers by doing the following:

  • promoting and opening access to a diverse student population.
  • increase research collaboration in higher education
  • increase student and faculty mobility
  • open study abroad opportunities
  • reduce the cost of study abroad
  • offer English as a medium of instruction at public universities
  • improve career relevance for students returning from the student abroad experience
  • facilitate mutual credit and degree recognition

Action Items and Success Stories

Nadine Van der Tol, Ph.D., North America Program Manager for Higher Education and Research, and Student Mobility, MESRI, noted that the U.S. has been France’s leading scientific partner.  In 2017, 16% of French scientific publications involve U.S. partnerships, yet while French students rank 17th on the list of countries sending students to U.S. HEIs, the number of American students studying at French HEIs is very low.   Finding out how France and U.S. can cooperate to help increase the number of U.S. students studying in France was a goal Dr. Van der Tol hoped to see accomplished by the end of the seminar.

The French representatives agreed on the importance of U.S. community colleges and indicated that their primary focus is on attracting this population of students who may not be aware of study abroad opportunities, don’t have the financial means and deserve access.

Ms. Christel Outreman, Higher Education Attaché, Director of Campus France USA, at the Embassy of France in the U.S., mentioned two projects in place to welcome community colleges:

  • Boot camp – With the help of CCID, the French set up a two-week program for community college students to visit France. This was an all-expenses paid two-week stay in France and the only obligation to the students was applying for a passport to travel. At the end of their two-week visit, Ms. Outreman noted that half of the students were considering studying abroad and most importantly, they were interested in studying in France.  The results of this boot camp were seen as so successful that plans are underway to host another. 
  • Pilot program – Another program Campus France USA had introduced was to select one student from a community college who entered a classe préparatoire, a two-year program intended for admission to the first year of the master’s in engineering or master’s in business degree program at a Grande École in Engineering or Business, respectively. This pilot program demonstrated that an exchange between a U.S. community college and a French HEI such as a Grande École is possible and successful.

Speakers also cited variety of programs already in place that offer funding and grants supporting study abroad opportunities.  One example is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship,  a program of the U.S. Department of State that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad.

Another program was introduced by James Hicks, Ph.D., Program Director, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP).  Dr. Hicks reported that since its inception, LSAMP has helped over 600,00 students.  LSAMP’s overall goal as cited on its website is to “assist universities and colleges in diversifying the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented in these disciplines: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders.” LSAMP is a congressionally mandated national science foundation program and offers help to two-year and four-year institutions. Undergraduate research is a key component of LSAMP and to achieve this, LSAMP supports study abroad by offering $5000 for a summer study abroad program that includes a visit to a national laboratory.

There is also the Chateaubriand Fund which was created in 1981 to encourage young American scientists to perform research in France.  Fellows receive a monthly stipend of up to 1400 euros, paid round-trip ticket to France and support for health insurance.  Each year, the Chateaubriand program gives about 50 grants.

The Thomas Jefferson Fund is a newly formed fund set up to address the world’s most challenging problems.  Since President Trump’s announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, France is amplifying its STEM, Health and research programs at the graduate and doctoral levels by launching several funds and grants to attract qualified talent. This is demonstrated in President Emmanuel Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative and by the 12million euros committed to the MESRI and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in achieving this goal.  Representatives from MESRI noted that in just one month they have received over 600 applications from scientists and researchers from around the world.  Needless to say, they had not expected such an overwhelming response in such a short time.

Since mutual recognition of degrees between the French and American HEIs was part of the discussion, my AACRAO colleagues Melanie Gottlieb and Julia Funaki presented an overview of the U.S. system of accreditation of HEIs and explained the credit system at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Summary

As the Seminar came to a close, it was clear that France is serious about meeting its goal of doubling international student numbers both as a host country and for study in the U.S. The French government has allocated funds to support international student and scholar exchange, through its “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative, partnerships with U.S. community colleges and launching innovative programs such as the two-week all expenses-paid boot-camp for community colleges students to visit France, refining the visa application for students, providing English as a language of instruction to attract students to public universities, and exploring ways to offer paid internships to students enrolled in the exchange programs.  The U.S. in turn has several programs already in place that support U.S. students with their study abroad goals. In closing, the shared sentiment amongst several delegates was that universities in France and the U.S. can achieve their bilateral goals in student mobility through partnerships that foster mutual recognition of their degrees, offering dual degrees, and incentives such as paid internships and experienced-based learning objectives.

jasmin_2015

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)

President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)

Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

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Spotlight on Education News from Germany

May 11th, 2018

In this week’s blog, we’d like to spotlight Germany’s education system based on recent news we’ve been monitoring from here. The German secondary school matriculation exam, known as the Abitur, has been in the news lately, as has been the rise of partnerships between businesses and public universities that is of concern to a number of watchdog groups that worry about business meddling with institutions of higher education.

German Abitur Tackles Geopolitical Issues

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Drawing by the Indian cartoonist Paresh Nath. Photograph: Paresh Nath/Khaleej Times

While the United Kingdom is still grappling with the aftermath of its 2016 referendum that resulted in its exit from the European Union, aka Brexit, students in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg last week were actually addressing the reality of Brexit in the written part of the Abitur exam.  The exam is Germany’s equivalent to the UK’s A-levels or France’s baccalaureate is the final hurdle for students leaving secondary school for university.  It includes a combination of written and oral tests.  In an effort to test the students’ knowledge of sociopolitical issues, the recent Abitur exam included a drawing by the Indian cartoonist Paresh Nath depicting the British in a split screen in which one is the fantasy of Brexit and the other reality of the referendum.  (Source: The Guardian)

Students in Baden Württemberg Protest the Abitur

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Photo: Bernd Wüstneck/Picture-Alliance, via Associated Press

It’s not unusual for students to complain about the unfairness and toughness of tests and exams.  But students in the same German State of Baden Württemberg had much to complain about the English-language portion of the recent Abitur examination.  Petitions have been signed protesting the use of archaic vocabulary which the students complained was incomprehensible.  The passage that is causing the collective grievance of the students is from the 1934 novel “Call it Sleep” by American writer Henry Roth. The passage (shown below) is describing the Statue of Liberty:

Against the luminous sky the rays of her halo were spikes of darkness roweling the air; shadow flattened the torch she bore to a black cross against flawless light — the blackened hilt of a broken sword. Liberty.”

(Source: The New York Times)

Strategic Partnerships between Higher Education and Corporations

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Transparency International Germany, is a nongovernmental organization that fights corruption and it is concerned about a troubling trend where more top-name German universities are entering strategic partnerships with corporations and commercializing their research.  Collaborations between German universities and business are not new and in the United States they are quite common. What is troubling is that more and more of the high ranking universities in Germany, experiencing a stagnant funding stream, are turning to the private business sector for help. Groups such the Free Association of Student Bodies which is a student union, and Die Tageszeitung, a left-learning newspaper are working with Transparency International Germany to expose the corporate influence on the public higher education sector.

(Source: The New York Times)

All You Need To Know About Higher Education in Germany

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The library inside Stuttgart’s Hohenheim University. Photo: DPA

There are close to 2000 post-secondary courses (out of 18,000) in Germany that are conducted in the English language and cater to international students. 12% of Germany’s students are from abroad. To learn more, click here:

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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