In a letter seen by The PIE News, the group highlighted the successes of the US international education industry, which it said are in large proportion attributable to the support of the department.
The letter, drafted by Study California and co-signed by other study state consortia, asked the department to continue supporting vital services for the international education industry such as market research and outreach, the US Pavillion at NAFSA and planning for events abroad and in the US.
“It’s just sent a bit of a shiver through the industry”
The other signatories to the letter were Study Hawaii, Study Massachusetts, Study Minnesota, Study New York, Study Oregon and Study Texas.
There is no official declaration that the department is to curtail its services to international education, but Study Hawaii president Joel Weaver told The PIE News that the industry has seen some ‘warning signs’ and received unofficial reports that this could happen.
“In mid-December, I was alerted by [key figures within the department] that they were getting unofficial indications that the support of education as a service export was no longer going to be part of the mandate of the US Commercial Service,” Weaver told The PIE.
As part of its report cycle, Weaver explained, the department publishes reports of success stories in service exports.
“They were told to not include education,” he said. “They were taken aback.”
Also, Weaver said he has encountered some hesitation from overseas partners who were formerly collaborating with US education institutions.
“We were looking to send someone to Japan for an event, and I was talking to one of the people in the embassy in Tokyo, and they said ‘we are not really sure how overt we can be, so you may have to work more with the consulate staff’,” he told The PIE.
“I think that concern that especially partners overseas had about whether they have to hide the fact that they are helping education institution – it’s just sent a bit of a shiver through the industry.”
The support of the US Commercial Service, the international trade promotion arm of the Department of Commerce, is vital for the international education industry, Weaver said.
“US Commercial Service overseas is extremely helpful. They organise events at embassies, do research for us to find potential partners – agents, for example. They also do a lot of webinars, virtual fairs, and are very helpful at strategising with us.”
The development of the study state consortia was also supported by the US Commercial Service, Weaver said.
“We were glad to be a signatory to the letter that our colleagues in Study California drafted,” he concluded.
“We are very concerned and we want clarity on what is allowed.”
Representatives of study state consortia are due to meet officials in Washington DC next week.
The PIE News asked the Department of Commerce for comment, but they were not immediately available.