Tag Archives: international students

Albright & Powell: Two Former Secretaries of State in Conversation

International Students, Immigration, Diplomacy

May 31st, 2019

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This year’s NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo was held in Washington, DC and wrapped up on May 31st. The highlight of my 2 ½ day attendance besides the fruitful meetings with colleagues and strengthening partnerships with client institutions and organizations was the opening plenary that included two former U.S. Secretaries of State, Madeleine Albright and General Colin Powell which was moderated by Dr. Esther Brimmer, Executive Director & CEO of NAFSA.

The following are excerpts of their discussion on international education, immigration policy, and diplomacy which I’ve paraphrased to the best of my ability based on notes I was able to take:

On International Students:

Secretary Albright stressed that we need to have an understanding of international education and the importance of students from U.S. going abroad and international students coming to study in the U.S.  As a professor at Georgetown University she knows how dire the situation is as the number of international students coming to study in the U.S. has been declining. She sees this as a great loss to U.S. higher education and U.S. diplomatic relations with allies and adversaries.

On the Iron Curtain and the Cold War:

General Powell said when he joined the military 60 years ago, the military had a clear understanding of its mission. His first assignment was to stand guard behind the Iron Curtain. He said the rules were clear. Stopping the Russians was the mission. Both the Soviet Union and the United States knew that they had the capacity to destroy each other, and knew each other’s capabilities. This knowledge had a stabilizing influence. Both countries looked to the Third World and competed for it.  But the Soviet Union started to show cracks. Then the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed on Christmas Day 1991.  “The world as we had known it and the sense of anticipated destruction we’d been preparing for went away,” he said. The President at the time, George Herbert Bush, saw this as a brand new world, but one thing became clear was that throughout the Cold War years the U.S. knew its enemies and was prepared to take them down and defend those western European nations and any one who wished to join the American theory of democracy, equal rights and open economic policy. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union the lid on the proverbial boiling pot came off and what was inside was a scorching stew of sectarianism, different economic positions, and people who still wanted to be autocrats. And, these beliefs were spreading around the world. The U.S. and its allies may have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union but they had never anticipated the sectarian differences and rise of autocratic political systems in countries like Poland, Hungary, Turkey, and Egypt.

On Immigration and Diversity:

General Powell continued by saying that immigration, this wonderful national identity that America upheld for many years, is now becoming a problem in Europe because they did not prepare for it well and have not done a good job in managing it. And now it has hit the U.S. He urged that the U.S. must sort out what its policy should be with respect to immigration and international students. He warned that the U.S. is on the brink of turning into a country that has become more autocratic than any time in his life time. “We have a President who thinks he knows what he is doing,” he said. General Powell was chagrined by the lack of dialogue between the two political parties. He recalled that during his and Ms. Albright’s respective tenures as Secretary of State, they were able to resolve problems by having members of both political parties communicating with each other. “The Republican party is solidly behind the president no matter what he says or does and the Democrats are trying to figure out what they’re going to do,” he continued.  “Immigration has been the life and soul of America. It is who we are,” he added.  General Powell spoke of his parents who came from Jamaica to America on the banana board in 1920’s. His parents met in New York, married, and led a comfortable life. “I grew up in a diverse multi ethnic neighborhood. Born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx, called Fort Apache. It was called a bad neighborhood, but I loved it. I met every ethnicity of the world in that city block. I loved it.  I learned how to live with people who weren’t just like me, except they were just like me. We are human beings, we are Americans,” he continued.  He emphasized the importance of developing a solid immigration policy one that doesn’t make it difficult for young people to come here to study and doesn’t make it even more difficult for them to stay if they’ve succeeded in getting a solid education.  He feared that these young people’s opinion of the U.S., “once the crown jewel of the world,” will not be looked at the same way again. He said that “this image has been damaged but that America is still a country you can believe in, but that we need to sort ourselves out. It’s not about Make America Great Again, America never stopped being great.”

On Technology and Globalization:

Secretary Albright continued with General Powell’s sentiments and said that the world is counting on a U.S. that demonstrates “normal reactions to the problems going on,” but that is not what the U.S. is currently doing. She spoke about technology, both its positive influences as well as how disruptive it can be.  She said there are two megatrends that we are witnessing that have both positive and negative results. The first megatrend is ‘globalization’ and most of us have benefited from it in one form or another and most of it are the students who were able to travel from their country to another to study and saw themselves as a global citizen. “Being a global citizen is not an insult. But there is a downside to it. Globalization is faceless. People want an identity. We want to know who we are and where we come from.  But if my identity hates your identity, we end up with hyper-nationalism. Which is very dangerous and that is the downsize of globalization,” she said. Another megatrend is ‘technology’ which has great benefits, and she used the example of a Kenyan woman farmer who no longer needed to walk for miles to pay her bills and can do so now by using her mobile phone and even get an education online, or start her own business.  But the negative part of technology is that it “disarticulates voices.” She referred to the Egyptian Uprising of 2011 that was part of the Arab Spring movement, where people in Egypt in January 2011 were summoned to Tahrir Square by Social Media. But once the people gathered at the Square they had no sense of what their organizational system was going to be once they had overthrown President Hosni Mubarak. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood was organized and had been organized for many years. In her opinion, the November 2011 elections in Egypt following uprising were held too soon and this is why the Muslim Brotherhood was able to win the election which caused more disruptions since it wasn’t what the people who had gathered in Tahrir Square had wanted. But the continuous disorganization made it unbearable for the merchants and shopkeepers who

were trying to make a living in the marketplace in a city that was riddled with chaos and disorder. They wanted order which led to Egypt having a military government. She sees what happened in Egypt as an example of why people, during periods of rapid change and disorder, call on autocratic leaders.  She quoted a Silicon Valley individual whose name she had forgotten as having said the following appropriate statement: “People are talking to their governments on 21st century technology, the governments are listening to them on 20th century technology, and are providing 19th century responses.”

On World History, Geography and Culture

Secretary Albright then spoke of the importance of learning and understanding the geography, history and culture of countries in order to help share cultural policy. She said she is known as “multilateral Madeleine,” and that Americans don’t like the word multilateralism that it has “too many syllables and ends with an “ism.” She regards international education and cultural diplomacy and learning about the other as the ultimate aspect of partnership. “We need to understand where we come from and none of that will happen if we decide to see ourselves as victims,” she added.

On Post 9/11 Immigration Policies:

General Powell recalled that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. reacted by shutting down the flow of refugees and enforcing stricter visa regulations on international students. No sooner had these regulations been enforced that he began receiving angry calls from university presidents who implored the State Department to ease up on the student visas.  They argued that international students were financially beneficial to U.S. institutions of higher education and helped keep their institutions operational. He said today China has about 400,000 students studying in the U.S. and the current Administration is accusing Chinese students as spying for their government as an excuse to make visa requirements more difficult. General Powell quipped that the U.S. need not worry about Chinese students spying as “there are spies amongst us here.” He blamed TV news and social media as exaggerating events to scare the American people so much so that we cannot have rational intelligent conversations. “They (N. Korea, Iran, China, Russia) are not enemies, but our adversaries. If N. Korea has a nuclear weapon, it wouldn’t use it because it would be assisted suicide. If they were to drop a bomb on a U.S. city, the U.S. would in turn annihilate them,” he said. He found it odd that the current Administration is arguing that Iran is going to build nuclear weapons when this issue was taken care of in the Nuclear Agreement of 2015 which stopped them from further developing their centrifuges. He did not view Russia as a military threat because “it lacks the economic strength to back it up.” As for China, he found this Administration’s fear tactics concerning China baseless in that China is already defeating the U.S. economically and doing so very well. He asked: “Why would they (China) want to attack us, when they have us buying the stuff they make?”

 On Diplomacy:

Secretary Albright stressed the importance of diplomacy but said that “diplomacy means having people who are diplomats and allocating resources to fund the diplomats” and the need to have a State Department that is properly staffed with appointed Ambassadors at their posts in countries around the world. She also stated that the foreign students who come and study here build a network and when they graduate they return home and hold positions in the private or public sector. Some run for political office and some get appointed to be ambassadors of their own countries. She shared that the current Japanese Foreign Minister was her student at the Modern Foreign Government course she teaches. “This is how you build diplomatic relations. The people that you meet at school are people who are going to show up again. It’s an automatic network. Diplomacy works, if you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This can be achieved more easily if there is a basis of understanding of each other’s cultures,” she said. “ One could prove the importance of international education by the mere fact that it works. It helps create friendships,” she emphasized.

General Powell recalled that at every post he had held, one thing he learned that has proven effective is the ability to listen to people and talk to people, and not shout at them.  He also mentioned that today, at City College of New York Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, the institution he had attended as a young adult, 90% of the student body is a minority and 80% were born in another country. “They are going to be great Americans. This is who we are and this is what makes us great,” he said.

On Immigration (Reminder why America is the Land of Immigrants):

Secretary Albright said that she and her parents came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in 1948, Her father had been a Czechoslovak diplomat and she remembers him saying that during WII when they had sought refuge in other countries, people would say “we’re so sorry your country has been taken on by Hitler, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you and when are you going home?” When she and her family came to the U.S. after the communists took over Czechoslovakia, people would say, “we’re so sorry your country has been taken over by a terrible system, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you and when will you become a citizen?”  That is what made America different from other countries and she felt that this has been forgotten by many Americans. She saw the anti-immigration sentiments of the past two years to America’s detriment. She said that one of her favorite things to do is give people their naturalization certificates. The first time she did it was on July 4, 2000 at Monticello. She overheard one person say: “Can you believe it…I just received my naturalization certificate from the Secretary of State and I’m a refugee!” She went up to him and said: “Can you believe the Secretary of State is a refugee?” She added, “We are great, we don’t need to be great again, we just need someone who understands this about America.”


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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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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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COLOMBIA: Education and Opportunities

May 10th, 2019

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Recently, ACEI’s President & CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, spoke on Colombia’s education system and opportunities for student mobility through its e-learning webinar series. And last week on May 4-5, at the invitation of the Embassy of Colombia in the U.S., ACEI attended the inaugural education fair hosted by the Embassy of Colombia in the U.S. on the campus of University of Illinois, Chicago. Clearly, the Colombian government is keen on reinforcing its connections with the U.S. and forging new relationships with U.S. institutions of higher education. In this week’s blog, we will share some highlights of this webinar.

On November 24, 2016, the Colombian government and the guerilla group known as FARC abbreviation of Spanish Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) signed a final peace agreement officially ending fifty-two years of conflict that had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced more than 7 million people. The nearly five-decade long internal conflict has had an enormous impact Colombia’s the socio and economic development and education.

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(L) Former Colombian President, Juan Manual Santos shaking hands (R) with Rodigo Londoño, top FARC rebel commander at the signing ceremony of the peace agreement. Photo credit: Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

Over the past two decades the Colombian education system has undergone a fundamental transformation. One of the most visible outcomes is the impressive expansion of access to all levels of education thanks in part to ambitious policies to tackle barriers to enrollment, making higher education affordable, and bringing education services to all parts of the country. In fact, Colombia has made a pledge to become the “most education” country in Latin America by 2025.

Colombia has undergone a silent revolution, undetected by the international community. In just a decade, there has been a sharp rise in student enrollments at all level of the education sector. There was even a 2.1% increase in the number of students traveling from Colombia to the U.S. to study in 2016/2017.

The U.S. is the preferred destination for Colombian students pursuing higher education. And the preferred states are California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida. The fields of studies in most demand are business administration, management, finance, banking, marketing and engineering.

You may ask why is the U.S. preferred over Canada or the United Kingdom? Obviously, is proximity is one reason but most importantly Colombians view studying in the U.S. as enhancing their employment opportunities after graduation when returning back home. Securing a high level position within the government or a prominent national or multinational company is much more difficult without proficient English skills and/or a master’s degree. There is a renewed push by the Colombian government to encourage English bilingualism, student see studying in the U.S. as a chance to improve and strengthen their English skills.

And another reason is that more Colombian businesses are increasing their presence and operation in the U.S. They prefer hiring bilingual Colombians with experience of having lived in the U.S. and who are knowledgeable of U.S. business practices and American culture.

Colombian universities are also interested in having agreements with U.S. universities to offer dual degree programs for their students. The Colombian government’s mandate is that a well-educated Colombian population is vital to the country’s economic growth and global competitiveness.

As the peace process solidifies in Colombia and the country becomes more stable and prosperous, the U.S. higher education institutions are in a good place to look at Colombian institutions and their students to strengthen their exchange programs.

For a link to a recording of ACEI’s e-learning webinar on Colombia that includes additional information on Colombia’s education system, study exchange possibilities, scholarship programs and resources, please email ACEI acei@acei-global.org and include “Colombia: Education & Opportunities” in the subject line.


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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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The Global Educator Program: Engage with key influencers to leverage your international recruitment

March 15th, 2019

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In this week’s blog, we would like to showcase Branta, an international student recruitment, study abroad organization based in Seattle, WA. We recently learned about Branta’s Global Education Program which aims to build relationships between teachers and school administrators in India with administrators at U.S. institutions of higher education.

According to Syed K. Jamal, Branta’s Founder & CEO, “In India’s collective culture, both resident and the diaspora community, lived-experience and face-to-face meetings have a profound effect. They break boundaries and build bonds. To leverage the cultural aspect, and in order to equip principals/counselors from India and the UAE with international networks, we launched the Global Educator Program in 2018. At its core, it’s a professional development outreach both for international educators as well as for American campuses acting as hosting institutions. We are delighted to launch the 2019 version of the program which provides full funding to international educators.”

As one US educator noted in this video, it’s not about just sitting and having a quick conversation and exchanging brochures with students but building relationships with educators and administrators from the students’ countries.  The desire by the K-12 schools in India and wanting to collaborate directly with U.S. institutions with relation to teaching and partnership, and ways to enhance understanding of what it means to pursue an education in the U.S. is significant. For U.S. educators, the benefits include gaining a better and deeper insight of the Indian education system at a younger level and what it means to start talking about the practicalities of a global education at a higher level. Bringing these two groups together under one roof and sharing ideas, learning from each other, developing partnerships and forging long-term relationships are the takeaways of participation in The Global Educator Program.

Those US institutions who wish to enable this exchange, host the group on their camps and benefit from it are welcome to write to syed@gobranta.com for more details.

And, please share this with those in your networks in India and UAE.


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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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Why is Canada the favored destination for International Students?

January 18th, 2019

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Right before the end of 2018, Forbes posted an article on how successful Canada has been in attracting international students to its institutions while the United States, United Kingdom and Australia are experiencing the opposite. The US has been keeping its #1 spot for a few decades as the preferred destination for international students, followed by the UK, Australia, and Canada but it is losing its hold on this title, as is the UK. We have decided to look at these four countries and highlight what has caused the uptick for Canada while the others are seeing the numbers plateauing.

Spotlight: U.S.A.

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The 2018 Open Doors Report cited the political climate in the U.S. as one of the major factors contributing to the ongoing declining enrollment of international students. Out of 540 institutions surveyed for the report, 60 percent cited the present political and social climate as one of the major reasons for the slump.

  • Security and safety are an issue
  • High cost of living and tuition
  • New strict visa rule make is very difficult for securing student visas and work permits after graduation

Spotlight: United Kingdom

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UK has enjoyed holding the #2 spot after the US, but it has seen a decline in international student number due to the following:

  • Tougher Immigration policies
  • Brexit caused an immediate decline in EU students attending UK institutions
  • High cost of living
  • High tuition fees

Spotlight: Australia

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Australia is heavily reliant on China for its international students and is becoming less popular for the Chinese because of the following:

  • Security and safety concerns
  • Tougher immigration policies
  • High tuition fees
  • Difficult in securing student visas

Spotlight: Canada

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Between 2015 and 2017 alone, the number of international students in Canada increased by over 40 per cent. What is Canada doing?

  • Lenient immigration policies
  • Seen as open, safe and welcoming
  • Offering postgraduate work permits for up 3 years and encourages international students to apply for permanent residency
  • Availability of study visas which are significantly easier to obtain
  • Lower cost of living
  • Lower tuition costs
  • Canadian employers have shown great interest in hiring international student graduates not only because they speak several languages but they are seen as an asset to the Canadian work force and economy. According to the Forbes article: “As baby boomers retire from the workforce, Canada looks to newcomers like international students to help cover projected worker shortages in local economies by 2025. As a result of international student spending, approximately 170,000 jobs were created in the Canadian economy in 2017. That is a significant economic stimulus.”

A few common threads we see amongst the US, UK and Australia are their stricter immigration policies, many of which were shaped because of shifts in their respective governments, but they are also seen as expensive both in terms of cost of living and tuition. Limited or no opportunities for employment and possibilities to apply for permanent residency on graduation also makes these countries less attractive higher education destinations. When you compare Canada’s open and welcoming approach to international students and the opportunities students have on graduation, it is obvious why it is the favored destination and why it will soon make its way to the #1 position.

Source Links:

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-12-10/how-international-students-are-changing-australias-universities

https://www.forbes.com/sites/andyjsemotiuk/2018/11/16/international-students-pour-into-canada-ahead-of-projections/#45eac55853ec

https://collegepostnews.com/international-student-enrollments-decline/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/eu-students-numbers-apply-uk-universities-fall-7-per-cent-brexit-latest-news-figures-a7558131.html

https://www.studyinternational.com/news/uk-universities-losing-out-on-international-students-due-to-stricter-immigration-policies/

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-36252302

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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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The Welcome Project ©

October 19th, 2018

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A Partner Program 2018

The Welcome Project© is a joint endeavor by the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) and iTEP International, offering individuals classified as refugees assistance with the evaluation of their academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence and determine their English language proficiency through an approved language assessment test.

Background
According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of 2017, there are more than 68 million people who have been displaced because of war, violence and persecution. As stipulated in Section VII of the Lisbon recognition convention, we recognize it as our social responsibility to assist displaced persons with their reintegration into the community. We realize that through the recognition of their former education, these individuals can accelerate their integration and assimilation into society.

Meet the Experts

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), founded in 1994 and based in Los Angeles, CA, is dedicated to providing credential evaluations and advocating for the recognition of international education qualifications.

iTEP International, founded in 2002 and based in Los Angeles, CA, offers a widely recognized English language proficiency test that meets the acceptance requirements for international education and immigrant community nationwide.

Call to Action

At ACEI and iTEP International, we see it as our responsibility and moral imperative to do our part to support the he integration of refugees, where possible, by offering our expertise in international credential evaluation and English language proficiency testing.

The Welcome Project combines both the international credential evaluation and English language proficiency testing at the onset of their resettlement in the U.S. These individuals will be able to receive recognition of their educational achievements and language competency. Such recognition will enable them to integrate into their new adopted community much faster as they set out to pursue employment opportunities and further their education.

The fundamental mission of The Welcome Project is aligned with U.S. higher education’s institutional internationalization, diversity and inclusion strategies.

How Can you help?

Join ACEI and iTEP International in adopting The Welcome Project and support displaced persons and refugees in achieving their educational and professional goals.

Together, we can make a difference.

For more information, please contact:

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
jasmin@acei-global.org
http://www.acei-global.org

Perry Akins
Chairman & Cofounder iTEP International, LLC
perry@perryakins.com
http://www.itepexam.com

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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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ACEI and iTEP International launch initiative to help refugees get education, jobs

October 17th, 2018

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The Welcome Project© is a joint endeavor by the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) and iTEP International, offering individuals classified as refugees assistance with the verification and evaluation of their international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence and determining their language proficiency through an approved language assessment test.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of 2017, there are more than 68 million people who have been displaced because of war, violence and persecution. In an effort to serve this displaced population already in the U.S., The Welcome Project© combines ACEI’s international credential verification and evaluation with iTEP’s English language proficiency test.

“As an international credential evaluation service provider, we see it as our responsibility and moral imperative to do our part to support the integration of refugees, where possible, by offering our expertise in this field, at the onset of their resettlement in the U.S.,” says Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO of ACEI. “By partnering with iTEP International through The Welcome Project©, we are able to combine our evaluation and English language proficiency test capabilities at specially reduced fees to make it affordable and amenable to institutional and organizational clients.”

“We feel that through our combined expertise, individuals displaced by war and persecution will be able to receive recognition of their education achievements and language competency,” says Dan Lesho, Executive Vice-President of iTEP International. “This recognition will enable them to integrate into their new adopted community much faster as they set out to further their studies or qualify for jobs.”

The Welcome Project© is made available to U.S. schools, colleges and universities, and employers who wish to provide these vulnerable and displaced individuals access to education and employment by ensuring they meet academic and English language proficiency requirements.

About ACEI

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ACEI is dedicated to the advancement of international academic exchange and understanding through the dissemination of information on world educational systems and evaluation of international educational documents.

ACEI works closely with U.S. colleges and universities, Professional State Licensing Boards, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Immigration Division) and the Human Resource Departments of several U.S. corporations with the evaluation and verification of international educational credentials. Our organization is actively involved in the training and professional development of admissions officers at U.S. institutions and examiners at U.S. State Boards, as well as officials at U.S. government agencies on matters concerning world educational systems, credential evaluation, diploma mills, and detecting document fraud. acei-global.org

About iTEP

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The International Test of English Proficiency was introduced in 2008 to modernize English assessment with on-demand scheduling, fast scoring, and rich, accurate data. iTEP offers a variety of assessment tools for university and secondary school admissions and placement, hiring and employee assessment (including tests for specific industries) and iTEP Conversation, which assesses conversation skills in 30 minutes and is graded by certified and trained native English speakers (as are all iTEP exams). More than 750 colleges, universities, high schools, and boarding schools accept iTEP results for admissions. Applicants can take iTEP at more than 700 test centers in 51 countries. iTEP International is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. itepexam.com

Contact Information:

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
9461 Charleville Boulevard, Box 188
Beverly Hills, CA 90212, USA
T: 1-310-275-3530
website: www.acei-global.org
email: acei@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

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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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3 Interesting Facts about U.S. Community Colleges!

March 16th, 2018

3 interesting facts about CCs

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Don’t Give up, Keep at it! 7 Steps for US HEIs to remain competitive in International Education

February 9th, 2018

climb

The reports are coming in, and they each speak of declines in the number of international students at U.S. institutions of higher education (HEIs). Panic has set in and decisions based on panic never turn out to be sound or prudent. They are short sighted and cause more damage than good.  Panic prompts HEIs to retrench, which leads to laying off staff in international admissions and cutting back on student recruitment. The drop in international student numbers shows itself quickly with a decline in dollars generated from tuition and fees which prompt universities to slash their budgets, cut back on staffing that translate to reduced course offerings and less seats available for prospective domestic students. People forget that the tuition from international students help subsidize a large portion of the infrastructure of institutions, supporting more courses and faculty and more seats available to domestic students. International students also help by participating in the general economy, they are, after all, consumers just like you and me and besides paying their college tuition, they are also spending dollars in the local community.

No matter who or what political party is in power, we forget that the U.S. economy hinges on the global market and our global competitiveness is in trouble, which includes our competitiveness in the international student market. Combining the number of international students in the US government’s net migration target is a flawed policy. We have and continue to have a political environment laden with extreme political opinions where one group is adamantly pro and another passionately against internationalization. Neither point of view is accurate since extremes in any which way tend to be flawed and too simplistic on how the domestic and global market are intertwined and function together as a unit and not separately. The more we remain engaged globally the more we can encourage the coming together of people, ideas and innovations, that will help us better address the challenges that face us.

When the political climate insinuates that internationalization is bad, it trickles down to all sectors of the economy and community, and those of us in international education feel its immediate effects on our campuses and in periphery services supporting our HEIs. Suddenly, there is a dis-ease within the international student community about coming to the US to study. They fear for their safety, they anticipate difficulties in obtaining a student visa and express concern about how they will be treated on arrival at a U.S. airport by customs and immigration officers and by their peers on the university campuses. We have, unfortunately, not been sending a warm welcoming message to the world in this past year and it is resonating loudly and clearly around the globe.

Say what we want, but we live in a competitive world, and when it comes to international education, the U.S. HEIs are competitive to the extent that they remain in the field. Rather than retreating, U.S. HEIs must stay in the game and compete successfully with their counterparts in UK, Canada, Australia, and emerging markets such as China and India. In fact, this is exactly the time for HEIs to collectively work on maintaining a robust marketing and promotion campaign to counter the negative perceptions about international education and students by dispelling myths that deter students from wanting to study in the U.S.

What must US HEI’s do?

1. Intellectual Contribution: Reinforce and Raise Awareness

In an article in The Times Higher Education, Dame Nemat Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science states: “…we need to reinforce, raise awareness of and spread the well-established principles that govern what constitutes a valid intellectual contribution. Practices such as peer review, competitive process for funding research, requirements to publish data, and transparency about conflicts of interest are fundamental to academic life. Most people are unaware of these practices, which are the bedrocks of academic quality and progress – we need to spread the practices to other domains such as think tanks and the media.” These are the hallmarks of U.S. higher education and US HEIs need to carefully craft the language that expresses and conveys this to the public without sounding elitist or academic.

2. Messaging

Which brings us to messaging. Where we seem to have faltered is in our messaging and doing a so-so job at communicating without sounding self-serving. We need to turn things around and emphasize the benefits brought to the community and country by international education and students. We need to use the Internet and social media platforms effectively and share personal stories and progresses in research in a language that is approachable and inclusive, one that will draw in the very camp that is opposed to internationalization. In the same report in the Times Higher Education, Dame Shafik suggests one way to accomplish effective messaging is by “working with thoughtful and effective storytellers to reach a wider public – consider, for example, Sir David Attenborough’s work to raise awareness of the environment or Michael Lewis on the risks inherent in financial markets.” Here are a few suggestions to incorporate in our individual and collective messaging on the unique benefits of international students and scholars:

  • Promotes U.S. foreign policy and international leadership
  • Helps the growth of U.S. knowledge economy
  • Spending by the international students and their dependents contributes significantly to the U.S. economy (approximately $13.5 billion)
  • Education exchange is benefits U.S. education as much as it does the international students
  • Education exchanges enhances and ensures U.S. security

3. Tools to Train an Informed Citizenry

While we craft the messaging to the world outside our campuses, our work as educators means that we must also commit to teaching and training our domestic students to become more discerning citizens. We need to teach them the tools they need that will instill in them an appreciation to be critical thinkers, learn how to distinguish propaganda and disinformation from facts so they are better prepared to engage and debate as informed citizens. Our domestic students will serve as our campus ambassadors and who better than they to welcome the international students.

4. Promote Healthy Debate

From teaching and training students to be critical thinkers, we segue to what is deemed as challenging by most and that is creating a space that respects different opinions and allowing both sides to debate and share their points of view, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. Absence of this neutral zone for public debate hinders any progress we would like to see in raising awareness on the importance and benefits of institutions of higher education. By allowing and fostering healthy debate on our campuses, we can help broaden the minds of our domestic students who may have a narrow opinion on what it is to be an international student.

5. Promote Diversity and Foster Inclusion

Whether it is our intellectual contributions, messaging, training and informed citizenry, and promoting healthy debate, one thing we cannot and should not forget is that the USA is not a homogenized nation but one that is uniquely diverse whose citizens have ancestry representative of every country on the planet. Simply put, what makes the USA unique is the sheer magnitude of its diversity of people. In fact, this diversity must and should be front and center in our conversation with potential international students. It is this diversity that sets the US apart and we should embrace and promote it.

6. Support Study Abroad

Promoting internationalization on our campuses, is a two-way street. At the risk of sounding repetitive, since this message has been expressed before by others, our HEIs need to demonstrate their commitment by being global leaders in higher education by having in place a robust study abroad program and encourage and support study abroad opportunities for their domestic students, and preferably to countries where learning a foreign language is a prerequisite. This experience will foster a camaraderie and mutual understanding between a returning domestic student from studying abroad and a fellow international student at his/her home campus.

7. Don’t Abandon the Marketing Plan

At the sight of trouble, or a downturn in economy, businesses tend to quickly react and slash their marketing budgeting. HEIs do the same, they cut back on recruitment, outreach, and promotion of their programs overseas. Rather than putting marketing on an indefinite hold, a plan needs to be thoughtfully put into place as to how to keep the messaging alive and robust. The first sign of retreat and defeat is to slam on the marketing brakes when the economy is slowing down. We need to keep the messaging consistent, clear and loud.

If we are not careful and let panic set in, the years of work that have made the US an attractive destination for education for students from around the world will be lost and regaining that competitive edge will take a very long time to recover.

HEIs needs to demonstrate the benefits of international education and international students and their value to the community and US economy. HEIs must not simply accept the current dictates set by government as a given. Rather than retrench and retreat, we need to push on and keep at it!

Is your institution experiencing a decline in the number of international student applications? Please share with us what steps your institution has taken or is taking to address this issue.

Sources:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/experts-must-fight-back

http://www.nafsa.org/uploadedFiles/NAFSA_Home/Resource_Library_Assets/Public_Policy/restoring_u.s.pdf

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/01/22/nsf-report-documents-declines-international-enrollments-after-years-growth

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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What is the Future of International Students in the U.S.?

December 30th, 2017

StudyinUSA

This time last year, I wrote a blog about the benefits of international students in the U.S. and it goes without saying that the message still holds true as it did then.

In another blog we wrote this past August, we offered the reasons why international students are good for the U.S. Without repeating the message of the blog, we can all agree that besides the financial benefits derived from having international students in the U.S., not just for the tuition and fees, but the economic impact they have on the community through their buying power, there are also invaluable scientific innovation and technological improvements introduced by these students as well significant social and cultural contributions. Unfortunately, these positive attributes are not being voiced or shared by those in office today.

2017 has been a remarkable and tumultuous year on many fronts. While our country waded through a bruising presidential election, those of us in international education quickly found ourselves faced with uncertainty.  The travel ban, stricter visa requirements and rising anti-immigrant sentiments placed our schools, universities and educational service providers in a precarious position. Our universities quickly spurred into action with messages of “You are welcome,” and our towns and cities offered themselves as sanctuaries for those suddenly finding themselves criminalized or thought of as the “other.”

While the current administration in the U.S. taking a more nativist stand suspecting anyone “foreign,” countries like Canada and Australia have amplified their message of openness and hospitality and attracting record number of international students.

Last month, at the international conference held at the University of California, Berkeley in the U.S. at the panel session on Asia in the New Nationalism and Universities, these very issues were raised and discussed. As stated by moderator Marijk van der Wende, professor of higher education at Utrecht University’s faculty of law, economics and governance in the Netherlands: “The recent geopolitical events such as Brexit and US turning its back on multilateral trade and cooperation, create waves of uncertainty in higher education regarding international cooperation, the free movement of students, academics, scientific knowledge and ideas.”

We are beginning to see countries that were once exporters of students to study abroad are now restructuring themselves to be the receivers of international students. China, for example, is seriously considering to step into the fray by strengthening its universities and bolstering its program offering and research facilities so it too can fill the void and position itself as an attractive alternative destination for study abroad.

India, another giant in the number of students it sends abroad for study, is also looking at positioning itself just like its neighbor China, as a country for international students seeking higher education. In fact, just recently, it was announced that a total of 100 of India’s top universities and colleges are vying to be named ‘institutions of eminence’ as part of the country’s higher education reforms to upgrade a select number of institutions into ‘world-class’ universities within the next 10 years. This will ensure that these top ranking “institutions of eminence” will have autonomy–without involvement from the University Grants Council (UGC)–to select faculty, administrators, design and development of curriculum and academic programs to be on a par with international higher education standards.

The jockeying for being number one in international higher education also means that some countries are considering to radically change the structures of their degree programs to appeal to international students looking for a less expensive and faster track to a degree. One example is the UK, which has held the top position in enrollment numbers of international students. The numbers, however, have dropped because of the recent Brexit vote and its strong nationalistic message. However, there is talk in the UK to reduce and compress its three-year Bachelor’s degree into two years in hopes to make the degree more affordable. An international student looking to study abroad where money is an issue may find the two-year intensive bachelor’s degree from the UK more palatable than its four-year counterpart in the U.S. or Canada.

At this time, it is difficult to gauge exactly how much of a negative impact the U.S. anti-globalism and anti-immigration sentiments will have on the number of international students seeking higher education in the U.S. There are already reports that the number are on the decline. Most likely, we will see the impact in 2018. In the meantime, knowing what actions and steps other players in the field have undertaken or considering and looking for ways institutions can restructure and enhance their programs, as well as recruitment and retention practices, is crucial if universities in the U.S. wish to remain competitive and relevant in the next 10 years. Of course, it will also help if there is a friendlier administration in office that views our universities as an important fabric of U.S. culture, and sees international students as assets and not liability.

As cliché as it is, we are navigating uncharted waters. As professionals in the field of international education, I thank you for your continued commitment and all that you do to deliver on our shared purpose for keeping international education vital and an integral part of our existence both as citizens of this great country but of the globe. It is because of you, and because we know we can do so much more, that I have such great confidence in the future. Despite what challenges may lie ahead, I remain hopeful and ask you to do the same but do not become complacent, become an advocate for higher education and let your voice be heard on your campus and in the halls of Congress. Contact your representatives daily, write blogs, send letters to editors of your local newspapers, hold townhall meetings with members of your communities, speak with your neighbors, and share with them the myriad of success stories of international students at your institutions and highlight their accomplishments and achievements. Stay proactive and engaged!

In closing, from the entire crew at ACEI, we wish you season’s greetings and a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year!

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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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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