The Department of Commerce agency’s USA: A Study Destination campaign – first launched in 2019 – will “complement” the federal framework announced in July, that heralded a new cross-departmental commitment to the international education sector.
As part of the campaign, the ITA said it will provide tools and a platform for the study state consortia to “address challenges faced by increased global competition in the international education sector, and to foster economic growth”.
They, and similar entities, will also be offered new opportunities to participate in programming aimed at increasing US educational service exports.
Additionally, public and private entities will develop promotion, recruitment, and market-entry strategies, which the agency says will “enable the US to better compete against other countries working to recruit international students as part of their national economic strategies”.
Speaking with The PIE News, chair of Study West Virginia, Clark Egnor, said that in light of the federal government’s renewed commitment to support international education, the number of state consortia is likely to grow.
“I think that we’re going to see more of these consortia emerging”
“There seems to be a lot of interest in working with study state consortia, at least at this stage. And so I think that we’re going to see more of these consortia emerging,” he said.
Currently, there are over 30 consortia across the country.
“This is the first time that I’ve seen the federal government take so much interest in what we’re doing at the state level with our study consortium. I’ve been really pleased to see some of the things happening right now with the Department of Commerce,” Egnor said.
Study West Virginia has, since its establishment in 2006, always worked with different government departments, but “there is more coordination now going on between these agencies”, he continued.
Former chair of Study Texas Jessica Guiver highlighted that the Department of Commerce initially set up the study state consortia.
A senior international trade specialist would attend Study Texas board meetings, in addition to helping set-up meetings with the respective international trade people in key markets, or help organise college fairs, she told The PIE.
“They were also able to help universities connect with recruitment agencies in target markets, set-up meetings with potential university partners,” she added.
The effort from the Department of Commerce will place emphasis on the consortia, the organisations now hope.
Erin McDonnell, outreach director at StudyColorado added that the Commerce campaign is a “great opportunity to highlight unique aspects of each state and offer students’ perspectives about their experiences”.
Chair of Study Tennessee Stephanie Sieggreen said the consortium has been working closely with local US commercial services representatives in the state “for some time now”.
“They have been instrumental in helping Study Tennessee explore and secure in-country connections for key recruitment regions to help build Tennessee’s global visibility as a education destination,” she told The PIE.
The support and recognition that welcoming international students to the US is a priority has of late “been elevated”, she continued.
“Many institutions within our various states may not have the luxury of funding recruitment initiatives on their own as each institution offers something unique to a global audience to help find the right educational fit,” she explained.
Grants, financial support and funding to create and implement innovative means to recruit and retain international students and support state-wide recruitment initiatives either through marketing and/or administrative support will all help to “keep consortia on task”, she added.
Study Tennessee members have recently collaborated to host an alumni event in Saudi Arabia and worked with TravelWorks on a YouTube video production for Russian speaking audiences, she added.
In December, StudyColorado will host an exclusive Colorado virtual fair in Latin America, McDonnell explained. Other initiatives StudyColorado has learnt from other consortia include holding a “transfer fair” for community college students interested in enrolling in a four-year institution within Colorado.
StudyWisconsin chair Jennifer Phillips added “StudyWisconsin is participating in the campaign and we’re really excited”.
“This is the first time study state consortia have worked with the Commercial Service (under the International Trade Administration) and there’s a lot of exciting opportunities ahead – marketing campaigns, hosted trade missions, etc,” Phillips noted.
Gabriela Zelaya ITA’s Global Education Team leader said that the US has “a long and proud history of hosting students from all over the world to live and learn in the US and make meaningful contributions to our communities and culture”.
In 2020, at an estimated $39 billion, education was the sixth largest US service export, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. NAFSA analysis has found that international students at US higher education supported nearly 416,000 jobs during the 2019-20 academic year.
“This new campaign is designed to help US states attract the best and brightest minds. We stand ready to help our educational institutions and industries succeed,” Zelaya added.
The ITA Global Education Team’s recent Indian market report, as part of its 2021 Education and Training Services Resource Guide, identified that the country’s study abroad market is “seeing a steady rise in competition from Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand”, largely thanks to flexible visa and other immigration friendly policies and longer post-study optional practical training conditions.
“I think this [campaign] is a good start,” Egnor at Study West Virginia added. However, he did call for “something more to be formally implemented” along the lines of a national strategy that NAFSA has long advocated for.
“I think we’ve lost some market share to the UK, Australia”
“It’s really the past five years or so where we’ve seen a kind of a softening in the enrolment of international students in the US. I think the US is still the world leader as a destination for international students but I think we’ve lost some market share to the UK, Australia.
“I’m encouraged with this [announcement], maybe we’re starting to restore our leadership for international education… or our country is restoring leadership for international education. But it’s still too early to tell if we’re going to be able to reverse these negative trends.
“That’s why I think it’s so urgent that that we have a national policy, really there needs to be someone in the White House directing this. It’s so important to the future of the US to have strong international education policy and leadership.”