The PIE: I’m sure there are plenty of challenges when working in the intensive English sector. Can you tell me about some?
Patti Juza: They’re numerous! There are a lot of institutions trying to add pathway programs right now. But in terms of mobility, one of the challenges I think for our field is the longer adjudication time for SEVP to adjudicate and approve pathway programs.
“Having solid Saudi numbers has been key to maintaining the diverse portfolio of students”
The PIE: You have to list a new pathway program before you can issue I-20s [certificate of eligibility] is that right?
PJ: That’s what SEVP would like us to do and that’s what we should be doing. But when you have programs that are waiting over a year for approval that can make it challenging, as you know the market continues to change. And there are other enrolment issues with everything going on with the world economy: the strong dollar, political climate, sponsoring agencies, changing policies, new language policies and different countries. So that’s one challenge our field is facing.
The PIE: How are you trying to resolve that? A year is a lot in terms of a wait time.
PJ: I am not sure how different that wait time has been from the past. It just seems very pressing right now. So adjudication times for adding new programs typically taking a long time and of course in order for it to be an efficient adjudication you want to make sure – as an institution – you have all of your documentation from the relevant accrediting bodies in advance, because if you get a request for evidence that can lengthen the process. But there are institutions that have done all of that and are still waiting.
The PIE: It sounds like pathways are the big new ongoing trend?
There are different models of pathways but whether you are working with the third party, or you are doing your own pathway… I think we can see that there is evidence of enormous growth of pathway programs in the US.
The PIE: Is the drop in Saudi students hurting the sector?
PJ: I think it depends on the institution. Very well ranked [institutions] are not seeing a drop off of Saudi students. Many sponsoring agencies and governments use ranking data when deciding where to send scholarship students. So I’ll give you an example; University of Colorado Boulder’s intensive English program has not seen depletion.
Having solid Saudi numbers has been key to maintaining the diverse portfolio of students. But I think what we are seeing is that institutions that are well ranked globally are not necessarily seeing all of the decreases in [student] numbers.
Also if you look at Kuwaiti student population in our program is also quite significant. They alternate between our second, third, or fourth largest student population in any given term.
“The US has a hard time in getting US students to go abroad for educational experiences”
The Kuwait Cultural Office often puts caps on programs that you can’t have more than a certain number of Kuwaiti students. It is not based on proportion, it is on the number of students so one year it might be 51 students, another year it might be 75 students. So we are not seeing a decrease in the number of Kuwaiti students either.
The PIE: What other trends are you seeing?
PJ: We are seeing a significant increase in short-term programs. And for some of the short-term programs that have a large cultural component, students can now enrol with a B-1/B-2 or on a visa waiver.
We are counting students with IIE’s Open Doors survey. and we reached out to them to ask ‘what do you want us to include in this?’ because we are very specific about no refugees or US citizens to count in that survey.
But with this proliferation of short-term programs, where students are integrated into intensive short English courses, do we count these students who are studying on a tourist visa or business visa? We received notice that we could and should include those students.
The PIE: It could be a whole new way of looking at Open Doors then?
PJ: It could be for intensive English programs in particular. And there is a significant number of students studying on these [programs] so we want to make sure as a field that we capture those numbers otherwise if we leave [intensive English students] out of the Open Doors survey information it’s not telling the whole story. And that’s really key.
You look at something like the Education USA Academy, which is a high school based program sponsored by the US Department of State. US Department of State changed its stance last year; it had been that students on a short-term program could do it if they were on an F or J visa – depending on whether they received any type of government funding.
This past summer they decided that no, students should be doing this on a B-1 [business] or visa waiver. It’s a US Department of State program and they see this Education USA Academy as a summer academic camp-like experience.
The other thing we look at is the universities across the world who are continuing to internationalise their campuses. Of course, the ideal model is student exchanges [but] that is difficult to do it in the US.
The PIE: How is the exchange market doing?
PJ: The US has a hard time in getting US students to go abroad for educational experiences. So in many cases, international universities send students on short-term programs to the States not as a part of an exchange but as another kind of an arrangement.
Sometimes the students don’t have the necessary English proficiency to sit in on degree level classes, so they may work with universities to send students on short-term English language study to fulfil a study abroad experience, which is a requirement of these universities.
“We are seeing a significant increase in short-term programs”
So we are seeing growth in those areas too, and depending on how the program is set up what amount of culture is included versus language study those students may be studying on a B or visa waiver.
There needs to be recognition that a lot of short-term programs are more labour intensive. You need more staffing and it involves not just the instruction itself and the typical cultural excursions, experiential learning that we do. But housing, airport pick up, food and more creative concierge services that we provide. I think that’s key.
The PIE: Is there any trend in terms of short-term programs?
PJ: There is definitely interest from Japanese universities in more of short-term programs because of their own institutions’ priorities or requirements related to study abroad. My campus is working a lot with the government of Mexico. [Mexico] is looking to Canada a lot because of the political climate and the price the Canadian dollar is not as strong as the US dollar.
I think there has been a positive impact from some of the short-term type programs where you see students returning to degree study or virtual conversation groups.
The market is changing. For example, we started an au pair program, not just as a little revenue source, but as an area where we can recruit prospective graduate students, because what happens is a lot of au pairs fall in love with the area and the institution and then they want to come back and do graduate study.
It may not be huge revenue generating program, but if it more than breaks even (which it does) then you have this wonderful source of au pairs who are then interested in coming back.
I think we are fortunate on our campus to see these positive trends – it is something we try to share with other colleagues in the field.