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US government backs international education in landmark statement

After two decades, the US government has taken a public stand in favour of international students.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   29-07-2021

BrainGain Magazine
Photo by pexels-pixabay from Pexels

The Departments of State and Education issued a joint statement to promote the US as an international study destination and announce its renewed commitment to academic engagement across the globe.

“The United States cannot afford to be absent from the world stage,” the statement read. “U.S. leadership and engagement makes an essential difference abroad, as well as at home. Indeed, in today’s interconnected world, our foreign and domestic policies are inextricably intertwined in pursuit of a preeminent goal – improving the lives of the American people.”

This joint statement is seen as a timely intervention after the decrease in international student interest.

In the 2019-2020 academic year, the number of international students in the US declined (IIE Open Doors). This was attributed to concern over high tuition fees, the future of the Optional Practical Training (OPT), and perception of the Trump administration's hostility.

Speaking at an Education USA forum, the US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, noted that international students bring tremendous economic and other benefits to the country. He observed that international students contributed more than $39 billion to the US economy, and supported approximately 410,000 jobs (according to NAFSA). “The fact that we’re a magnet for so much global talent is a powerful source of economic strength and resilience."

While the US does hold the lion's share of the international student market, hosting over 1 million in 2018-19 (IIE Open Doors), it must strive to retain its competitive edge.

Over 5.3 million students headed abroad for higher studies in 2017 according to UNESCO. This number could rise to eight million by 2025. Naturally, the competition between host countries is keen. While students have traditionally gravitated towards anglophone destinations such as the US and the UK, followed by Canada and Australia, the trend is now shifting. China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and The Netherlands, are grabbing a share of this highly competitive market because of cheaper tuition, quality of education, and better work opportunities.

Canada is an excellent example of the benefits of offering international students clear routes to post-study work and citizenship. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of international students in Canada increased by 119 percent.

The US is now recognizing that connection. Secretary of State Blinken said: “Many international students decide to stay here after they finish their education, to start their own business, to contribute their talents to American companies and American communities. That’s in our interest, too.”

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