WENR: June, 2016: Americas

U.S. Colleges Give Syrian Refugee Students a Chance for Education

U.S. higher education institutions are supporting Syrian refugees in their efforts to get a college degree.  A group of 60 colleges began offering full or partial scholarships to prospective students when the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.  Participating institutions include the University of Southern California, Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Tufts University in Massachusetts and Davidson College in North Carolina.  Over 150 scholarships have been granted to Syrian students in a campaign created by the Institute of International Education.  Of the 11 million Syrians fleeing violence, 100,000 meet the criteria to attend college, and according to the institute. 230 colleges will offer free tuition to a minimum of one Syrian refugee student, if the institute can fund the student’s travel and room & board costs.  Students at colleges and universities across the U.S. have pressured administrators to offer admission and financial support to Syrian refugees, including some institutions in states such as North Carolina, New Jersey, and Ohio, whose governors worked to stop Syrian refugees from entering.  Participating U.S. institutions are also allowing flexibility in the admissions process, such as interviews in place of tests and copies of transcripts in place of originals.

AP: The Big Story
May 24

World Education Services Tests Credential Assessment for Syrian Refugees

World Education Services (WES) is testing a new system in Canada that would allow Syrian refugees access to academic credentials previously lost due to the Syrian conflict.  “We’re saying for people that for completely unjustifiable reasons can’t obtain documents in that way, they shouldn’t be left with nothing,” said Tim Owen, director of WES Canada.  If successful, WES plans to launch the program in the US and other countries where refugees need assistance.  Owen also added “We would try and reconstruct their academic history from the research that we already have done on the Syrian education system.”  In a recently published report, WES also recommends that institutions offer severely discounted or free tuition for refugee students.  European colleges and universities are stepping up as well, according to a map of institutions created by the European University Association.   WES suggests that Europe’s ENIC-NARIC networks would provide a solid foundation for credential assessment.

The PIE News
May 20

Singapore Company Attempts to Buy the Santa Fe University of Art and Design

Raffles Education Corporation, a Singaporean education company that owns 30 colleges across 13 countries, recently made public its plans to purchase the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.  Raffles manages colleges in Australia, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland.  Formerly known as the College of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe University of Art and Design came into existence as the College of Santa Fe planned to shut down in 2009, and was then rescued by the city of Santa Fe’s purchase of the land and subsequent agreement to rent said land to Laureate for 27 years.  The acquisition would mark a new trend of international education corporations attempting to establish themselves in the U.S.

Inside Higher Ed
May 19

Tuition Costs Increase at U.S. Public Institutions; Funding per Student Drops

U.S.  public colleges and universities are spending drastically less on students, according to a report conducted by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.  The center says that states are spending $1,525 less per student since 2007, while tuition costs have increased by 33 percent since then. ” These sharp tuition increases have accelerated longer-term trends of college becoming less affordable and costs shifting from states to students,” said the authors of the report.  Though advertised tuition rates have grown by a third, what students end up paying is lower due to discounts offered to students in the form of grants and scholarships.  Per one of the report’s authors, Michael Mitchell, the average student debt rose 18 percent in the years between 2008 and 2014.  Though states’ coffers are bigger than they were in 2008, public colleges and universities are up against prisons and Medicaid recipients for funding.  Enrollment to state institutions increased by 8.6 percent, which lowers per-student spending.

The Hechinger Report
May 19

For-Profit Universities Ban Arbitration Clauses Under Pressure From U.S. Department of Education

The University of Phoenix and Western International University, both of which are owned by the Apollo Education Group, will no longer include required arbitration clauses in student contracts starting July 1.  Apollo Education Group has been widely criticized for blocking students from suing colleges for fraud.  The U.S. Department of Education voiced the opinion that any student accusing an institution of fraud should be able to file suit in court.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau agrees, recommending that arbitration clauses be removed entirely.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 19

Kentucky Governor Can Reduce University Budgets Mid-Year, Judge Says

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate has ruled in favor of Kentucky governor Matt Bevin’s move to slash funds for Kentucky higher education institutions mid-year.  Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and a handful of legislators filed suit against Bevin earlier this year for authorizing a 2 percent funding reduction during the academic year.  Beshear will submit an appeal immediately, stating that “While we respect Judge Wingate, his opinion is inconsistent with numerous decisions by the Supreme Court of Kentucky and confers dangerous levels of power on the governor.” Kentucky’s public colleges and universities are part of government’s executive branch, and Bevin has the ability to change funding based on his power as governor.  Wingate has also ordered that both the Bevin and Beshear agree to put the $18 million in question in an isolated location until the case comes to a close.

Lexington Herald Leader
May 18

Chinese Company Seeks to Buy University of Connecticut Campus

Weiming Education Group, a Chinese for-profit education company, made an offer to a purchase a 58-acre campus of the University of Connecticut up for sale in West Hartford.  If the offer is accepted, Weimer will bring 500 prospective students to West Hartford for enrollment in both the University of Connecticut campus and area high schools.  Weiming claims to be the biggest private educator in China, with 40,000 students enrolled.  The offering price to Weimer is $12.6 million, and the University of Connecticut is required by law to offer to the same price to the town of West Hartford.  The University of Connecticut gave West Hartford a much cheaper price at $5 million, with the condition that they would receive 90 percent of the price difference if the town finds a buyer with a higher price in eight years.

The Hartford Courant
May 17

Brazilian Student Mobility Trends Shift

The Brazilian Educational and Language Travel Association, or BELTA, recently published a study of patterns in Brazilian study abroad programs.  The study combines data from two groups: 135 study abroad providers and 2,000 students. It found that 46.2 percent of study abroad providers reported a decline in sales, and of the prospective students planning to study abroad, 60.9 percent indicated they would pay their own way. The data point to trouble in the Brazilian economy — and to the freeze on Brazil’s government supported scholarship for international students. As the purchasing power of students and their families drops, students have increasingly sought out more affordable destinations. Canada and the U.S. remain the top first and second places to study, with Australia replacing the U.K. as number three, then Ireland, the U.K., New Zealand, Malta, South Africa, France, and Spain. The study attributes the drop in U.K. study abroad for Brazilians is a result of both a high exchange rate, and Britain’s move to restrain the work rights of international students.

ICEF Monitor
May 16

Ontario Stops Accepting Fast-track Applications for International Students Seeking Residence

The province of Ontario announced it is halting operations of a program intended to fast-track students on the path to residency in Canada.  The Provincial Nominee Program, or PNP, is for graduates of Ontario universities who received master’s and doctoral degrees.  The goal of the program is to recruit educated international degree-holders with a quick, efficient path to residency.  Ontario drastically expanded the number of openings and is now wading through a backlog of 7,000 applicants.  Students are experiencing long delays in processing and are worried about their status.  “As an international student who doesn’t have any status in Canada, you don’t have any voice.  Next week, Ontario could say we’ve stopped issuing provincial nominations and we can’t do anything – you’re stuck,” said Amir, a Ryerson University MBA graduate who has been waiting since fall 2015 for an update on his application.  Higher education institutions are attempting to bring international students into the fold at a much faster clip.  Canada has been the at the head of the pack, but the Canadian program Express Entry has received heavy criticism from graduates seeking permanent residence.

The Globe and Mail
May 16

Argentinian Student and Teacher Unions Push for Higher Salaries and Education Funding

A huge group of students and professors held a march in Buenos Aires to protest the current financial crisis in Argentina and its impact on the education system.  Thousands assembled at Plaza Houssey and proceeded to the Education Ministry, where they delivered a petition with over 43,000 signatures.  The protestors appealed to the government to increase teacher salaries and funding for education.  Teachers’ unions have previously rejected the government’s offer of a 30 percent increase in pay, as inflation is hovering around 40 percent.  President Mauricio Macri announced a lump sum of USD $500 million to be paid to universities earlier in May, but this payment may only last for a few months.  Universities are also suffering from increases in utility taxes, which may cause them to shut down classes earlier than planned. “If what’s at stake is universities being able to pay their electricity bill then what’s really at stake is the actual existence of universities themselves,” stated Luis Tiscornia, secretary general of the teachers’ union.

The Argentina Independent
May 13

Lower Yield Rates at U.S. Colleges and Universities

Higher education institutions across the U.S. are experiencing decreasing yield rates.  Yield rate is defined as the percentage of applicants who are offered admission and end up enrolling in a specific university.  Many administrators try to understand why this is happening, and in their attempt to mitigate the situation try many different techniques.  One approach is increasing applications, but those extra applicants generally don’t enroll.  Between 2001 and 2014, college applications went up by 108 percent, but high school graduates only went up by 11.6 percent.  U.S. enrollment data show that depressed yield rates are prevalent throughout the country, except for a handful of specific institutions.

Academic Impressions
May 11

Canadian Government Pushes Legislative Changes in Favor of International Students

The Canadian federal government is enacting legislation in further support of international students seeking education in Canada.  The new Liberal government is taking steps to repeal Bill C-24, a bill that was initially implemented by the previous Conservative government and causes more difficulty for international students in postsecondary education to obtain citizenship.  “International students are the perfect candidates to become Canadian citizens and we are seeking them out, as are other countries around the world.  It makes no sense for Canada to punch them in the nose by taking away their 50 percent [residency] credit,” said immigration minister John McCallum.  McCallum also commented that the immigration department plans to upgrade the Express Entry system, which is the starting point for many international students seeking residency and has been castigated for lumping those international students in with skilled workers.  Steffi Hamann, a student from Germany finishing her doctorate in political science and international development, said that the combination of international students with skilled workers wreaked havoc on the international student community, especially considering the steep investments in tuition.  “There’s a sense … that we made this investment and [we’ve] clearly indicated that we value being educated in this particular country, so it was a bit of a slap in the face,” said Hamann.  In addition, slow visa processing times and the lack of Labor Market Impact Assessments (LMIA), a test used for foreign workers, continue to stall international students in the Express Entry process.

University Affairs
May 10

Middle-Class International Students Bring Diversity to Asian Student Mix in the U.S.

Growing numbers of middle-class international students from Asia are coming to the U.S. to study.  These Asian international students come from backgrounds that contrast sharply with the stereotype of extremely wealthy Asian families who send their children to study in the U.S.  Economic growth in countries such as China, Vietnam, South Korea, and Taiwan has offered middle-class families the opportunity to send their children abroad.  In addition, families are sending their children to study in the U.S. at a younger age, sometimes starting in middle school and high school.  “A lot of these students are very interested in ultimately enrolling in a U.S. college or university, and they see being able to obtain a credential at the high school level as a way to ease their path into a U.S. higher education program,” says Rajika Bhandari of the Institute of International Education.  Though critics have raised concerns about international students taking places from local students at universities, administrators say that extra dollars brought in by international students enables them increase enrollment for both international and local students.  International students alone have infused $30.5 billion into the U.S. economy, and they bring a fresh outlook to classrooms where American students may not have the chance to travel and study outside the U.S.  International students benefit as well, also gaining a new perspective on the U.S. and skills they otherwise might not have acquired that can help them get jobs and get promoted when they return home.

The Christian Science Monitor
May 6

NYU, USC Enroll Highest Numbers of International Students

A report recently published by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, shows that New York University has the highest number of international students of American tertiary institutions. NYU has 13,851 international students enrolled. The University of Southern Californi is in second place with a 13,080 students. Northeastern University (11,381), Columbia University (10,810), and the University of Illinois round out the top five schools. All are located in or around a large metropolitan area. Asian students make up 77 percent of the group, with students from China, India and South Korea in highest numbers, followed by Saudi Arabia, Canada, Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil and Mexico.  Some 1.2 million international students are in the U.S. on either an F (academic) or M (vocational) visa, and 40 percent of these students are engaged in STEM curriculum, with the 82 percent of students from India studying STEM.  200,000 international students are in the U.S. with a J-1 visa classification.

University Herald
May 6

International Students One Factor in Changing Traditions at Harvard

Harvard University has announced new restrictions on single-sex clubs that will compel them to convert themselves to co-ed organizations.  Members of single-sex clubs will not be allowed to have leadership roles at Harvard, such as athletic team captains, or recommendations for postgraduate fellowships and scholarships, such as the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. Restrictions apply to both male- and female-only clubs, to which 30 percent of the student body belongs.  Alumni of the clubs are pushing back on the new restrictions; however teh administration says the announcement is part of an effort to become “truly inclusive.”  “Over time,” said University president Drew Gilipin Faust, “Harvard has transformed its undergraduate student body as it welcomed women, minorities, international students and students of limited financial means as an increasing proportion of its population. But the campus culture has not changed as rapidly as the student demography.”

The New York Times
May 6

Aid for Wellesley International Students Varies by Region of Origin

Wellesley College enrolls a small number of international students – 276 during the 2013-2014 school year.  More than half of those students come from East and South Asia, and on average they received $6,607 in aid per student.  The 41 European students that school year received an average of $27,547 per student.  While domestic applicants can apply without disclosing their financial need, the situation is different for international applicants.  Funds come from a Wellesley endowment, and international students may be rejected once funds run out.  Sannidhi Joshipura was afraid to disclose her financial need.  “For me, it was scary because Wellesley was my top choice, and I didn’t want to not get in because of financial aid…but I had spoken to some alumni in Bombay and they encouraged to apply regardless,” she says.  “University is free in Europe, [and] coming to the United States doesn’t make much sense unless you have a good financial aid packet, ” says Hero Ashman ’16.  “If Wellesley wanted to bring people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds it would make a big difference,” says Ashman.

The Wellesley News
May 5


Posted in Americas, Regional News Summaries