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“Watershed” US gov commitment welcomed

Stakeholders in the US international education community have welcomed new government commitments to promote the country as a study destination. 

The US’ international education community have welcomed new government commitments to promote the country as a study destination. Photo: Pexels

In recent years the US has faced challenges around international student recruitment

A statement outlining the new commitments, published by the US departments of State and Education, will see federal agencies participate in a coordinated national approach to welcome international students, and scholars to the US. 

“This is a real rallying point”

During a session from the 2021 Education USA Forum, Brian Whalen, executive director of the American International Recruitment Council, said the commitment marked a “watershed day” for the sector. 

“This is a real rallying point. It doesn’t happen very often in our lives where we have such energy and commitment being expressed,” he said. 

“It has really ignited a passion within our membership already, as I hear from people via email and text who are excited about secretaries Blinken and Cardona in their joint announcement today.”

While the benefits for the US economy are clear, panelists highlighted the benefits for international students coming to the country. 

Whalen said that the announcement made him think about the reasons why international students are “so attracted to the US”.

“The diversity of our institutions and the variety of the academic programs that provide top notch, leading edge professional training to students. I think that is the core reason that students will continue to come to the United States. 

“They have such an amazing number of choices in terms of institution, location, size, curricula, teaching methods and campus light life and can really match their specific interests that they have their academic career and social goals and thereby customising their educational experience that they want to meet those needs,” he added. 

“International students come to the US to receive an outstanding, world class education”

Esther Brimmer, executive director and CEO of NAFSA, said that the announcement marked an important day for international education.

“We are all glad that we’ll have an opportunity to work together on this next stage,” she said. 

“International students come to the US to receive an outstanding, world class education. We have such a variety of institutions across the US that provide great educational opportunities for people from around the world. 

“It also creates an opportunity to find friends and colleagues for a lifetime. Even the secretaries commented on their own personal experiences of international education. We also see that higher education is right at the centre of all of the most pressing issues as well.” 

Brimmer told delegates that US students benefit from international education, both from the global experiences provided by international students in their classroom and the opportunity to study abroad and their interactions with their peers from around the globe. 

“We look forward to working together on enhancing those opportunities,” she added.  

“I feel like after several years of what feels like bad news, there is a lot of good news happening”

In recent years the US has faced challenges around international student recruitment. In 2020, an IIE survey showed that half of participating higher education institutions had lower application numbers than in previous years. 

Speaking in the Education USA Forum session Angel Perez, chief executive officer of the National Association for College Admission Counseling noted the difficulties that the US has faced around the recruitment of international students. 

“I feel like after several years of what feels like bad news, there is a lot of good news happening. All of us who are here today on this panel, because we fundamentally believe in the power of international education, we fundamentally believe in the power of US higher education and having international students join us for that journey. 

“The reality is over the past several years it’s been a little complicated getting students to the US, we certainly have not made it easy.” 

Perez said that the announcement reinforces the fact that there is a commitment from the US government and US higher education institutions to bring more students to the country. 

“We certainly believe that there hasn’t been a greater time to be here with us,” he added.

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