Obama 2nd Term Polices: Impact on International Education

After nearly a year of intense presidential political campaigning, U.S. voters have officially selected President Obama for a second term in the White House. With a host of big issues to tackle, the Obama administration will not only be faced with challenges like handling an economic recovery and improving bipartisan relationships in Congress, they will also need to  manage changes in education policies, immigration reform, foreign policy efforts and more.  With so many priorities to manage, what could Obama’s second term mean for international educational professionals, especially for those interested in expanding education abroad opportunities for traditionally underrepresented populations?

Based on the most recent discussions about the impact that the election results would have on higher education, there are four areas that may be of particular interest for international education professionals to watch over the next few months. These issues have the potential to change, challenge, and improve the way education abroad experts pursue the goals of making international opportunities available to a wider audience of students and improving international student services on campuses.

Immigration Policies

DREAM Act Legislation
Maryland has become the 12th state to allow in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who qualify. This comes in the wake of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act that allows many undocumented young people who arrived in the U.S. when they were minors the chance to remain in the U.S. Not only do these two examples suggest that people in the U.S. are interested in a more comprehensive reform on immigration policies, they also suggest that there will be a growing number of diverse students, particularly Hispanics/Latinos, who may begin to seek out other opportunities on campus to get engaged including education abroad programming. Advisers from all departments will need to know how to access resources and information to support these students on campus, especially if the federal DREAM Act legislation is re-introduced to Congress.

Enhancements to Work and Student Visa Requirements
There has been much discussion about offering a path toresidency in the U.S. for international students who graduate with advanced degrees. Though both parties favor policies that would allow these graduates to stay in the U.S. to increase the national competitiveness in research and development, passing legislation on these policies is often held up by a greater need to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. Should action be taken in this area, institutions of higher education may look to expand international student recruiting efforts and increase focus on research opportunities.

Supreme Court Decision on Affirmative Action
Affirmative action lawsuits have been around nearly as long as affirmative action policies were first set in motion in the 1960s. The latest case to be brought to the attention of the Supreme Court is that of Abigail Fisher vs the University of Texas, Austin. This case has the potential to completely eliminate race/ethnicity from consideration during the college admissions process subsequently challenging institutions to find alternative ways to recruit ethnic/racial minorities to their campuses. This is no easy feat, and should the case rule in favor of eliminating racial preferences in admissions decisions there is a strong possibility that colleges and universities will face several challenges in ensuring students of color are represented on their campuses. This may present new challenges for how international educators reach out to and retain students of color for education abroad opportunities.

Pell Grant Program
Threats to cut the existing  Pell Grant Program and modifications in federal student aid in general have greatly affected the higher education community. Federal aid is imperative to making college accessible to low-income and first-generation students because it has provided the financial support needed to cover the basic costs of attending college. This has allowing a more diverse population of students to get engaged in activities outside of the classroom and limiting access to these resources could also limit the diversity of students on campus. If funding remains steady or even increases, this may mean new opportunities for education abroad professionals to get more underrepresented students involved in international programming. There are an increasing number of study abroad providers that now offer matching funding for Pell Grant eligible students and this may create more demand for additional programing.

Expansion of Community Colleges
In 2011, the Obama administration launched the Building American Skills Through Community Colleges an initiative that is intended to expand education and training opportunities for more US students. Now only has the administration committed to more support for community colleges to train students, it has places a particular emphasis on preparing the population in high demand technical jobs that are increasingly global in nature. This opens a unique opportunity not only to engage community college students in education abroad activities, it could open opportunities for STEM students to explore international programming also. Moreover, this and other federal initiatives are working on expanding opportunities to attract larger international student populations to these campuses. This not only could offer more funding opportunities for the institutions, it could also offer opportunities for on-campus dialogue and engagement between US and international students, in turn promoting more cultural exchange on campus.

These are but a few of the policies that could influence the direction of international programming and internationalization efforts on US campuses over the course of the next few years.

Conferences in International Education

As a professional interested in gaining as much information about what is going on in international education, I began exploring venues where I might be able to connect with other international education professionals and get a sense for what’s going on in the field. I’ve pulled together a non-comprehesive list of a few conference that are related to the general field of international education. There are a host of other nationally focused conferences that have tracks where presenters can focus on internationally focused issues in education, but I decided to start with the more explicitly international opportunities.

If others have additions, feel free to leave a comment to let me and others know what’s out there!

Association of International Education Administrators
Month: February

Australian International Education Conference
Month: October

CIEE Annual Conference
Month: November

Comparative and International Education Society
Month: March

Diversity Abroad Conference
Month: April

EducationUSA Forums
Month: Varies

European Association of International Education
Month: September

Forum on Education Abroad
Month: April

Global Access Pipeline Conference
Month: April

Hawaii International Conference on Education
Month: January

NAFSA: Association of International Educators Annual Conference
Month: May/June

Other Resources:
List of Higher Education Conferences Worldwide

Association of International Education Administrators List of Intl Ed Conferences


Language Matters

Over the last several years, the discourse about the availability of language proficient professionals in the U.S. workforce has expanded beyond the international education community. Congressional members, heads of multinational corporations, and foreign policy experts have joined the dialogue giving a sense of urgency to a matter that has traditionally been viewed as an education issue, not a question of foreign policy. Where the conversation was once defined in terms of student learning and cultural competence, we now hear about language acquisition as an issue of national security and U.S. economic competitiveness. The challenge, though, has not necessarily been about getting the public to buy into the idea that these issues are important (“seventy-five percent of Americans believe all students should know a second language”). One of the most immediate issues in increasing the availability of language training opportunities is turning rhetoric into policy and providing funding to support those policies.

The Council on Foreign Relations recent Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 24 and their March 2012 report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security state the need for making these issues top priority on the U.S. policy agenda. They also offer a host of recommendations for how to implement reforms needed to train young people in less-commonly taught languages and issues of global importance. Funding for any reform, however, will rely heavily on congressional action in favor of internationally focused programming. Unfortunately, the most recent cuts to Title VI programs within the Department of Education demonstrate how steep the climb will be to get federal funding to support existing language programs let alone funding for new initiatives.

Creating a space for multiple stakeholders to strategize how to change the landscape of language education will be important. Generating the momentum that presses Congress to act will, however, be the only way to ensure there is a long-term commitment to making these opportunities available across the U.S.

Funding for International Experiences: Why It’s Important

With the tuition rates on the rise and budget cuts to nearly all spending in higher education, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that international education programming and funding is at a serious risk of being reduced. Political candidates have stated publicly their intent to cut spending in the some 75 internationally focused programs that fall under the Department of State and Department of Education.

At the same time, we face the reality that we have an economy that is inextricably connected to global markets and transnational negotiations that require us to develop and train language proficient, culturally competent professionals. The current funding for international education programs we have is crucial to maintaining the U.S. Economic strength and security.

It is clear that if we don’t fund opportunities that make our students competitive in the global market other nations will look to fill that void. In the U.S alone, there are 670,000 international students studying at institutions of higher learning. This far exceeds the 260,000 U.S. students we send abroad annually (IIE 2009 Open Doors Report).

As a nation, we should be encouraging students to pursue language study, study abroad and involvement in internationally focused activities with particular focus on expanding these opportunities to underrepresented groups. As a field, international education has much more to do not only to expand how many students are served, but the diversity of students who have access to international opportunities. There is a need to send students abroad who represent the diversity reflected in our nation, and now is not the time reduce funding that currently supports those initiatives (ex. Gilman Scholarship, Rangel Fellowship, and Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship).

Similarly, in order to justify that the current spending is meaningful, we need to make sure current funding is working efficiently and demonstrates that these programs work. We need to provide concrete evidence that the impact of these programs gives good reason for maintaining and potentially increasing spending in these areas. 

International education is critical to developing the next generation of leaders, and we need to support initiatives that keep and increase funding support in these areas.