“The 2023 NES signals the Department of Commerce’s recognition that international education is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have, for the US’ global competitiveness,” said Mark Overmann, executive director, Alliance for International Exchange on the long-awaited strategy.
Overmann said that although the US remains the number one destination for international students, it is losing its market share, and that is why it is therefore “critical” that Commerce is officially joining the Department of State and Education in its efforts.
Although the recommendations largely mirror activities already happening, Commerce will be able to amplify this work in unique ways, said Overmann, such as through export promotion services, deep connections in foreign markets and trade mission activities.
The strategy showcases the “novel approaches” in five areas being taken to promote the US as a leading study destination.
Jill Welch, senior policy advisor at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, too highlighted global competition for students growing stronger each year.
She told The PIE that although the news is “another important step forward by the government in leveraging the power of international education to create jobs and further develop our knowledge economy”, there is more to be done.
“What we really need now is a whole of government approach that catapults us from this new export strategy and the 2021 Joint Statement of Principles to set clear goals for diversifying international education and allocating the resources needed to implement effective strategies.”
Another key player to applaud the decision is NAFSA.
“It is gratifying to see the agency recognise the economic and strategic advantages associated with international education and exchange and it speaks to the high level of respect and communication between our sector and the department,” said Jill Allen Murray, NAFSA’s deputy executive director of public policy.
She added that NAFSA has long been advocating for the government to make a “coordinated commitment to international education” to ensure the country has the talent pool necessary to “innovate and engage with the world”.
The association is therefore calling for the Biden Administration to build off this momentum and establish a coordinated national strategy for international education.
“Such an approach would harness collaboration between multiple entities – namely the US Departments of State, Education, Commerce, and Homeland Security – to set targets, establish policies, and fund programs that elevate US efforts to recruit the world’s best and brightest students to its campuses and equip its domestic students with the international experience needed to be successful in an increasingly interconnected world,” Murray told The PIE.
International education is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have, for the US’ global competitiveness
“The impact will be far-reaching, serving to enhance American foreign policy, diplomacy, innovation, national security, economic growth and global competitiveness.”
Samrat Ray Chaudhuri, assistant vice president at Webster University, said the inclusion of international education in the NES is “great timing” for US universities who were, until now, “staring haplessly at the much discussed enrolment cliff which is approaching faster than predicted”.
Chaudhuri now expects many universities to double down on international markets to bridge the gap arising due to this enrolment cliff in domestic undergraduate population.
However, he told The PIE that for the US government to “really level the playing field” it must reconsider its position on off-campus jobs for international students beyond the current CPT and OPT policies.
“Allowing a 20-hour per week off campus work permit during their study duration will allow US institutions to better compete with other destinations such as Australia, Canada and the UK, where such provisions exist,” he said.