I am in Vancouver, BC, Canada for the NAFSA Conference: An Association of International Educators. WOW! This is a huge industry, evidenced by the size of this conference. With over 9000 registered attendees from all over the world and hundreds of exhibitors in the expo hall hawking everything from on-line applications software to Chinese recruiters, I am in a high learning curve!
I spent yesterday afternoon with 30 educators/recruiter types from China, England, Ireland, Netherlands, India. We were spending four hours together thinking about the international opportunities in the U. S. Higher Education, sponsored by Institute for International Education. We are still the best--for right now--for this moment--for now. With our 4,633 colleges and universities (1, 705 public, 1,713 private, not-for profit, and 1,215 private, for profit) we still have some of the best colleges and universities in the world. Our belief in limited government (a Jeffersonian democracy), capitalism, equal opportunity, and firm belief in the value of liberal arts undergraduate foundation have created schools of unparalleled reputation and influence. I would also add that our most noble notion of higher education, which assumes that education serves to benefit not only individuals and families, but also our country, contributes to our success (stated best in the reverential terms of Wake Forest University motto---Pro Humanitate--for the benefit of humankind). In addition, the early notion of our nascent republic was that education was a God-given opportunity--that to educate a mind was to deepen a heart in preparation for service to others--still stands as a guidepost for our most noble institutions of higher learning. In more pragmatic terms, US Higher Education is a $200 billion enterprise, whose employees comprise about 2% of our national workforce. We must stay strong, even with budgetary constraints of this moment in time. Sharing with the world our noble aspirational vision of higher education may be our best export yet. Nike, McDonalds, Starbucks worked internationally with solid business plans, but the exporting and importing of higher education might just exceed the international influence of things you can wear and eat! And we just might be able to create a better world for all of us in the meantime.
To cherish these values of American higher education, however, is to be willing to share them with the world. And we are. International students come here; American students go there. The Institute of International Education (IIE) has been keeping stats on international education since its founding in 1919. The Open Doors Report (since 1954) produces an annual census. The most amazing fact is that one generation we have seen a 120% increase of students of American students studying abroad. We are going there! Non-traditional places, like China, Argentina, South Africa, Denmark, Peru, South Korea, are replacing the traditional places of study abroad, such as UK, Italy, and Spain. They are coming here! In 2009/10 the number of international students in the US increased 2.9% from the previous year to 690,923 students. Of that number 52% of the degree seeking students are from China, India, and South Korea.
This is a new world. And I am glad to be alive at this particular moment in time to see it unfold and to be a small part of this large movement of global education.