“It is our hope that the Department can clarify its position and reaffirm its long-standing commitment to assist American academic institutions in bringing talented international students to their classroom,” reads the letter, seen by The PIE.
“Any policy limiting or ending the US Commercial Service’s support for education service exports would be damaging for American education institutions and our economy,” warn the 15 signatories, who are members of congress for districts in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, California, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota and Maryland.
The letter is the result of a concerted effort coordinated by a group state education consortia which, following unofficial indications that the department could be reducing its support to the international education industry, initiated lobbying action at the end of 2017.
The commercial service provides essential support for the international education industry both in the US and overseas, giving assistance with market research and outreach, recruitment fairs, webinars and more.
Rumours that the department could be dropping education from its mandate “sent a shiver through the industry” and prompted former president of Study California, Jing Luan, to address a letter to the former chief of staff, acting under secretary of commerce, Israel Hernandez, requesting clarifications and a meeting.
“For…our government to have second thoughts or to reduce their work helping us to bring in the talents undermines our national and economic security”
The letter was signed by study state consortia from Hawaii, California, Texas, Massachusetts and New York and was sent to all congressional offices in Hawaii, Study Hawaii president Joel Weaver told The PIE.
The Study Hawaii consortium was then contacted by Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa’s office. She drafted the congressional letter to Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, which study state consortia then asked their representatives to sign and support.
“As a result of this concern being brought to the attention of Hawaii representative Colleen Hanabusa by the Study Hawaii consortium, the congresswoman drafted a letter that was co-signed by other congressional representatives and endorsed by key international education organisations,” Weaver told The PIE.
“State consortia and international education leaders look forward to a positive response from Secretary Ross, leading to a restoration of our strong collaborative relationship with USCS colleagues in the U.S. and at Commercial Services outposts around the world.”
For Jing Luan, who initiated the action, supporting the international education industry is a no-brainer from an economic point of view – and lack of support could jeopardise the industry and favour competitors.
“Canada, Australia and New Zealand are way ahead of us, attracting the cream of the crop from all over the world and keeping them. By doing this, they have taken our market share that in a short period of time, will quickly weaken our nation’s knowledge-base, creativity and competitiveness,” he told The PIE.
“For any branch of our government to have second thoughts or to reduce their work helping us to bring in the talents undermines our national and economic security.”
The group is now seeking endorsement from other key bodies in the US international education industry, such as IIE, AIRC and NAFSA. It is also waiting for an official statement from the department, with specific indications to show how it is planning to continue allocating budget and staff to support the industry.
A spokesperson from the commerce department told The PIE: “The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration continues to support U.S. education services providers with a full suite of country-specific export promotion services.”
“Our trade experts remain committed to finding high-impact opportunities in overseas markets that will create American jobs and contribute to economic growth in the United States.”