Tag Archives: students

International Student Visas in the News, Again

May 09, 2013

Lecture Hall I, UMBC, Wednesday night, fall semester, 2010

The recent tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, signifying yet another senseless act of violence and loss of innocent lives has spawned a wave of anti-immigration sentiments, in particular concerning student “visas.” According to the online blog Politico: last Wednesday on Fox News, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “student visas are not a right…that the nation needed to be open to changes that provided more security…I don’t like profiling anybody, I don’t like singling out anybody or generalizing anything. On the other hand student visas are not a right. Student visas are something this country does out of generosity, student visas are something this country does because we figured out it’s in our national interest, but you don’t have a right to a student visa. Therefore we can place whatever restrictions we want on student visas.”

Before we demonize all international students and even the process by which student visas are issued and tracked, we need to be reminded that we already have an effective system in place known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), the Homeland Security database, that was created after the attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Chuck Olcese, the director of international student services at the University of Kansas: “international students are actually watched more closely than other people visiting the country…the student visa system is the most-watched system in the immigration process.” http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/may/03/ku-other-universities-monitor-status-international/

One of the three 19-year old men, Azamat Tazhayakov, charged last week with interfering with the investigation into last month’s bombing was admitted back into the U.S. in January without a valid student visa. Turns out that the visa for Tazhayakov had been terminated since he’d withdrawn from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. This information had been reported by the University and Tazhayakov’s status had been updated in the SEVIS database. Had the border agent at the airport checked the SEVIS database, he/she would have seen that Tazahayakov did not have a valid student visa and could have denied him/her entry, but the agent did not have access to the SEVIS database. Under existing procedures, border agents can verify a student’s vista status through SEVIS only when the person is referred to a second officer for additional questioning or inspection, “U.S. to tighten border checks on foreign students”. Having acknowledged the glitch in the procedure, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has ordered that all border agents must have access to SEVIS by this week.

Creating more stringent requirements on granting visas to international students, as declared by Senator Rubio, is not the answer. Due diligence is already being carried out by the U.S. institutions admitting these students. Clearly, the SEVIS database is populated with invaluable information; it is access to this information that hindered the apprehension of Tazahayakov when he arrived on U.S. soil in January. Hopefully now that all border agents have been given authorized access to SEVIS, the likes of radicals like Tazahayakov can be stopped and denied entry before they can wreak havoc.

For more on this breaking new policy check out this piece: “US orders new visa reviews for arriving students”

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Biting the Hand that Feeds Us: Turning Our Backs on Out-of-State / International Students

June 14, 2012

Bite Across the Dotted Line

I recently read an article on the MercuryNews.com about a constitutional amendment proposed by the California Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter) that would “prevent any UC campus from enrolling more than 10 percent of its undergraduate students from outside California.” According to the article, “out-of-state and international students made up 8.4 percent of UC undergraduates this year. The figure was higher–1.2 percent–at UC Berkeley, and about 30 percent of that campus’s freshmen this year from outside California.”

Sen. Rubio argues that out-of-state students are taking spots away from California-based students whose “parents and grandparents (of UC applicants) have paid taxes to build these campuses.” His concerns would make sense if California state institutions were not faced with the biggest and most drastic budgetary cuts in the state’s history. So, exactly how does he intend to pay for the California-based students? Clearly he must know that out of-state and international students studying at UC campuses are not getting a free ride and benefitting from low tuition rates available to Californians? He must be aware that nonresidents pay a much higher tuition which in fact helps the institutions stay afloat and in an odd roundabout way, end up making enrollment of the resident student possible. For example, tuition at UC Berkeley for a non-resident is about $34,000 per year versus $11,124 for the resident student. The article points out that “State funds make up 12 percent of UC Berkley’s budget this year.” The surplus revenue generated from the non-resident students’ tuition actually makes up for the funds lost in budget cuts imposed by the State.

If the good senator wants to make a difference, then he would need to protect our public institutions against any further funding cuts. Otherwise, our public institutions have no choice but to seek other sources to generate revenue, e.g. non-resident and/or international students and even entertain taking drastic measures, like the recent steps UCLA’s Business School has taken in privatizing its MBA program. On June 7, 2012, the Academic Senate at the University of California Los Angeles voted 53 to 46 to approve a proposal to stop accepting any state funds for the university’s M.B.A. program, and to replace those funds with tuition revenue and private support. The proposal awaits the final approval of Mark Yudof, president of the university system. (It’s expected that Mr. Yudof will approve the proposal.)

If we stop and listen, we can hear the grumblings of students protesting on the campuses of our public institutions. They are angry and their anger is not going to dissipate by turning non-residents away. It’s the tuition burdens put on our CA-resident students that need to be addressed, and cutting back the educational budget is definitely not the way to go about it.

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Embracing International Students: Lowering Standards for the Almighty $$$

May 3, 2012

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

As we seek ways to attract international students to our college campuses, lowering our standards and accepting candidates solely to boost revenue and clout doesn’t seem to be a smart way of going about it. But, it is exactly what’s happening. As states cut back on subsidies, slashing budgets and tightening belts, our colleges and universities are feeling the strain and altering their screening of foreign applicants.

In a way, being admitted on the basis of having famous parents may not necessarily get one into a university, but having influential relatives as likely donors will give the student a leg up. At least, that’s what Douglas Christiansen, the dean of admissions at Vanderbilt University is quoted as saying in an April 17, 2012 piece “Colleges angle for influential foreign students like Bo Guagua” on Reuters. Where a family’s clout overseas was once not a factor in the screening of applications of international students, more and more U.S. institutions are feeling the pinch and slowly abandoning their purist admissions practices and considering to “think about screening foreign applicants for their capacity to help boost revenue and prestige,” is how Phillip Ballinger, Admissions Director at the University of Washington in Seattle puts it in the same article.

You may have heard of Bo Guagua, and his “party-boy” persona, and even following the recent headlines surrounding his parents who are accused of political corruption and even murder of an English businessman in China. (Children of China’s political elite are commonly referred to as “princelings,” a strange moniker for a country that did away with emperors and all things princely.) Despite what news articles have uncovered about this young man’s spotty and subpar academic record beginning with his secondary education at Harrow (a prestigious boarding school for boys in England which appears to have admitted him on the basis of a strong recommendation from the very English businessman, now deceased), to his stint at Oxford University, where he was suspended for a year for “poor academic performance,” the 24-year old Bo Guagua was admitted to Harvard University’s Kennedy School to pursue a Master’s. And, he was on a scholarship!

What happened to academic performance? Parents are breaking their backs to put their students in college-preparatory programs and paying for private tutors so their children will score high on SAT’s and get into top notch universities. They apply for student loans and take second mortgages on their home to be able to pay for their child’s college tuition. And while soon-to-be high school graduates double up and pack their schedules with extra-curricular activities to strengthen their college applications, there are those, like the young Bo Guagua, who simply jump to the front of the line because of family ties and financial resources.

There’s something wrong with this picture and as one who has been involved in international education for nearly 30 years, I know the answer lies in the proper vetting of the international student with a thorough and detailed verification and evaluation of his/her academic documents. This may sound like a self-serving statement, but it is true. As public universities here in the US are feeling the pinch and pressured to loosen their reins on screening foreign applications, more and more are looking at ways to exercise more flexibility and at times turn a blind eye on the importance of credential evaluation. Sadly, one of the first departments that appear on an institution’s chopping block at times of financial hardship tends to be the international student office. Yet, the institutions set out to aggressively recruit international students knowing that they are a guaranteed revenue generating source.

Fortunately, there are still some holdouts in the education market. Just yesterday I spoke with the director of the international admissions office of a local community college who was adamant about having the applications of potential foreign students screened before encouraging them to apply to his institution. He wanted to be sure that a) the institution the foreign applicant had attended in his/her home country was accredited; b) the academic documents were bona fide, and c) that the studies were equivalent to U.S. high school graduation and beyond with satisfactory and above average grades. At least he has the good sense to verify these students’ academic documents in advance. Let’s hope that more institutions see things his way.

In our quest to attract international students, enriching our campuses with diversity and multiculturalism, boosting revenues that help our local and regional economies, we can maintain the integrity of our academic institutions without compromising our standards. If a community college is capable of doing this and still remain an attractive destination for international students, other institutions can do it too.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.

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Packing My Bags & Heading South to NZ

April 12, 2012

Karori and Cook Strait, Wellington, New Zealand, 14 Nov. 2008

While catching up on my backlog of newspaper and magazine articles, my eyes caught sight of this headline in this piece from April 2, 2012 in the NYT: ”New Zealand Casts Itself as Destination for International Students.”.

It seems that our friends in the island country in the south Pacific have a great plan to attract and retain international students. While we here in the U.S. tighten our borders, implement stringent visa requirements for international students, increase tuition fees, and put more pressure on our college administrators to become part of the bureaucracy known as SEVIS Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), our counterparts in New Zealand are doing the exact opposite.

In fact, the government in New Zealand has embarked on a strategy of reducing tuition fees for international students, and making it easier for students from countries like India and China to apply for visas. Their immigration department has opened offices in India, China and Hong Kong that serve as application centers to help students applying for visas. They are even, as stated in the NYT article “enticing students to stay on after they graduate by offering a one-year graduate job search visa. If the student finds a job relevant to their qualification, they are then eligible to apply for a graduate work experience visa for up to three years.” Given these perks, why would anyone in their right mind turn down an offer for a hassle-free student visa application, lower tuition and the prospect of employment after graduation? Not to mention, with a population of about 4.4 million, and blessed with spectacular natural beauty, New Zealand is an ideal place to seek serenity and a peace of mind.

Just this morning, on my way to work, I heard on the radio news of two international students from China who were shot dead in their car while parked outside the campus of a well-known private university here in Los Angeles. This is, according to LAPD, the fourth such shooting in this particular area.

In the words of a second year international student from Vietnam studying for her bachelor’s degree in commerce and administration at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand is not only cheaper “than Switzerland” but the country has “less people…it’s quiet and peaceful…its affordable.” Heck, if I were an international student, I’d pick New Zealand over Britain, Australia and the U.S. in a heart-beat.

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Turning Our Back On Education: Way to go America!

March 8, 2012

St. William Elementary School Olympic Week- Art & Culture Day

In a recent NYT article “Where the Jobs Are, The Training May Not Be,” Catherine Rampell reports that even though technical, engineering and health care specialists are in great demand in today’s weak job market, these fields happen to be the most expensive subjects to teach. “As a result, state colleges in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Florida, and Texas have eliminated entire engineering and computer science departments.” The situation is so dire that Ms. Rampell writes: “At one community college in North Carolina –a state with a severe nursing shortage—nursing program applicants so outnumber available slots that there is a waiting list just to get on the waiting list.”

Why is this happening? For the past twenty-five years, the states have withdrawn from higher education and slashed financing for colleges during and immediately after the last few recessions. And even when the economy did recover, the states never restored the money that had been cut from education and now with the current recession the problem has been amplified.

According to Ronald G. Ehrenberg, the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute and a trustee of the State University of New York System: “There has been a shift from the belief that we as a nation benefit from higher education, to a belief that it’s the people receiving the education who primarily benefit and so they should foot the bill.” Really? Is this what we’ve become as a people and as a nation? So the nurse graduate who received four years of education and practices as a registered nurse is the sole beneficiary of her education? What about the patients whom she tends to and the medical centers which use her services? Don’t they too benefit? How can we be so crass as to think that all that we do is for our own benefit and has absolutely no impact or ramification on the people around us, the community, the environment, the world? How dare we operate from such an ego-centric mindset?

In fact economists have found that higher education benefits communities even more than the individual with the degree. Let’s not forget the G.I. Bill which helped bankroll the college education of Americans following the post- World War II economic boom. An educated people help the economy grow faster and foster a more stable democracy and aid the neediest workers. By cutting funds, states reduce the ability for the poor to receive an education and more training to prepare them for skilled labor. They also limit access to the field such as sciences, engineering and health care that are most important to economic and job growth.

As an educator and one who deals with domestic and international students, I am dumbfounded as to how our country turns its back on these key educational programs. President Obama speaks for keeping America on the forefront of science and engineering so that we can remain competitive with the rest of the world, yet at the same time funding is taken away from the very programs that will train and nurture future scientists, engineers and health practitioners. What does this mean? It means that US would have to recruit its scientists, engineers, nurses and doctors from overseas, diminishing the chances of US students from pursuing studies in these fields and ultimately finding gainful employment.

So the next time xenophobia kicks in, and angry fingers are pointed at skilled and educated professionals immigrating to the US who’re filling engineering and health care positions, best we take a good look in the mirror. The problem is not “them” but “us” and our collective attitude and diminished respect for education and the teaching profession.

The Frustrated Evaluator


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1, 2, 3: Delivering information to students around the world

January 20, 2012

Tanzanian Classroom

Billy Wilder used film as a vehicle for raising social awareness in the hilariously acerbic comedy, “One, Two, Three” which took place in Post-War Berlin. Art imitates life full tilt here as the Germans erected the Berlin Wall during filming. Wilder was a bit daring for this time period of extreme social unrest and change on the heels of WWII. Exactly! Making a strong social statement that has the power and potential to reach people and provoke heart-felt reactions is to say the least difficult. It is uncomfortable to see the extreme suffering and inequality in the world 24/7. Where once people could feign innocence by pleading that they had no idea what was going on that is hardly the reality today. In the film, James Cagney’s heel-clicking male secretary Schlemmer, responds to Cagney’s question, “Just between us Schlemmer, what did you do during the war?” Schlemmer responds, “..I had no idea what was going on above ground…”

As an art form, film is an extremely powerful media, and used in a certain way, it has the ability to reach into our hearts and connect us to the very things inside ourselves that can be energized to promote social justice and change. Social media in general and the availability of film on the Internet is an exciting, vital and instantaneous result of the digital media revolution. It offers a chance to address one of the biggest dilemmas facing education; how can we deliver information on an equal and just level to all students around the world, around countries, states, cities a villages? How can we engage students and keep them excited and enthusiastic about learning? The way I see it is not quite as simple as 1, 2, 3, but that might be a good device with which to get started.

1. Bring History into the Present

A beautiful example of this was the newly released Black Power Mixtape a fascinating and revealing documentary of the Black Power Movement in America, from 1967-1975. The footage was created by Swedish journalists and edited together after having been recently found in the basement of a Swedish television station.

The history of that seminal movement may be new to some, but the subject matter is not. Martin Luther King Jr. day just passed, and it is still hard to reconcile the fact that racial and gender discrimination are both sadly alive and well. On a recent show on KPFK’s Democracy Now, Amy Goodman held a discussion on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. day to discuss the mass Incarceration of Black Americans. She quoted Michelle Alexander who revealed a startling fact, “…there are more African Americans percentage-wise imprisoned in the United States, more black people, than were at the height of apartheid South Africa.” How could I not know this fact?

I grew up in California, and was extremely fortunate to receive the best possible education while attending public school. Mind you, it was in Beverly Hills, so that sort of removes it from comparison to any other public educational institutions. My first year in High School, 1970, was the first year of busing for the school. In my high school, of course it was one-way busing. I’ll explain. Busing, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, was the forced busing of students from one part a city to another, as a means to de-segregate schools, and was a direct result of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All over America the cities themselves were and to a great degree, and still are, racially segregated. School districts lines were intentionally created to segregate schools and were often, (see Jim Crow laws) conscious efforts to send black and in Los Angeles, Mexican children, to inferior schools. But they did not “bus” the wealthier white kids to the schools in the poorer communities of color, all that way across town. We never talked about that as students; we just went on about our integrated lives while taking courses such as “Black Studies” and “Native American Studies.”

I don’t remember which class it was in, but we were shown the 1955 film Nacht und Nebel (“Night and Fog)” by Alain Resnais. It was an absolutely horrifying experience as a documentary short film about the horrors of the Nazi Concentration Camps. I never forgot those two words.

2.Global Partnership in Technology

If the goal is to educate, truly, and disseminate knowledge and history so relevant to our world today, why not use the technology so readily available, to bring education to everyone? Using digital technology, we have a chance to bring education infused with energy and excitement to, just about everyone! Give students of all ages a chance to learn by doing, and by example. Use film and digital video to break down the inequality in education that exists not only in 3rd world villages, but also in some of the wealthiest communities in the leading countries of the world. A very inspiring and successful example of this is The Bridgeit Program in Tanzania. Educational video content is available via mobile technology to 150 rural primary schools in Tanzania. Classrooms have large computer monitors and from mobile phones, teachers can select from a wide variety of lessons, some of them tailored to fit their local area and address local issues. Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, the Vodacom Foundation, and the Pearson Foundations are in partnership with the International Youth Foundation and the Tanzanian Ministry of Education, to make this advanced technology possible. There you go. If that can happen in Tanzania, there is no reason whatsoever that cannot happen everywhere. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eif2UKRNIOg

3. Get Corporations Involved

Now that we have the media attention, why not get creative and come up with ways that global corporations might participate, and clean up their image a bit? The International Youth Foundation has partnered again with, believe it or not, Starbucks TM. Starbucks TM has created The Starbucks TM Youth Action Grants Program, which makes funding available with grants of approx. $10,000 each. These grants directly support the efforts of young people around the world, enabling and encouraging them to become innovators and increase their skills in order to improve their lives, communities and expand their ability to make a difference on a global scale. Take Plan B, Kenya, one of the 2011 grant recipients. They are using video art to energize active interest among students on college campuses in Kenya, surrounding the issues in the 2012 elections. http://www.canthingsgetbetter.org/

Perhaps the joy and delight I have found in learning new things has its basis in my early educational years. The excitement of traveling the highways of our minds, finding ourselves stimulated and enriched while on a voyage of discovery–– is a gift that should be given to all children, to people of all ages and all walks of life. Only by becoming fully aware can we hope to be engaged participants in our own lives and in the world. What a wonderful thing to help children find their own path, and have the courage and self-esteem to walk on it. How different the world would look.

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” ~Malcolm Forbes

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jwndesign@me.com

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2+2: Bringing the $$$ value back to the U.S. Higher Education

The global middle class is growing as is the global demand for International Higher Education. It is projected that student mobility will grow 70% by the year 2025. International Students contributed approximately 18.78 billion to the US economy during the 2009-2010 academic years; it is this country’s fifth-largest service-sector export, according to the Department of Commerce. However as more countries get into global recruitment, U.S. is losing its global market shares due to the perception of high education costs, and the budget cuts that is effecting all institutions of higher Education and visa issues. U.S. global market share has fallen from 28% in 2001 to less than 20% in 2009.

What can U.S. Institutions do to remain globally competitive?

The answer lies in enhancing, articulating and marketing of 2+2 jointly by community colleges and four year institutions. The 2+2 process provides huge savings to students and all institutions of higher education. As the global middle class grows the 2+2 can bring affordability of a U.S. Degree to these families who would have otherwise looked at other countries. Properly presented this will create a new segment of the global market and a new pathway for U. S. Community Colleges and Universities. “The globalization of economies, the rise of China and India, advances in science and communications technology, acceleration of global mobility—and the fact that virtually every major health, environmental, and human security challenge Americans face can be solved only through international collaboration—will require our graduates to be far more knowledgeable about world regions, cultures, and global issues.” U.S. education must prepare students for a world where the opportunities for success require the ability to compete and cooperate on a global scale.

Zepur Solakian
Center for Global Advancement of Community Colleges (CGACC)
Executive Vice President, 
Global Communication & Public Relations


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