International students (from left) Thy Nguyen from Vietnam, undergraduate at Houston Community College; Tiffany Jin from China, undergraduate at Rice University; Fatima Muili from Nigeria, doctoral candidate at Texas Southern University; and Akshay Shanbhag from India, master’s candidate at the University of Houston meet on the University of Houston campus to talk about the diversity of U.S. higher education institutions and why they chose to study in the United States for a series of EducationUSA videos promoting higher education, June 13, 2022. Photo courtesy of EducationUSA
By Iris Davis-Hall, Kate Huckaby, and Mariah Magness
International education contributes to a more peaceful and prosperous future for the United States and the world, building relationships between people and developing the knowledge and capacity to collectively address local and global challenges. Within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Office of Global Educational Programs (Global), is one of four offices under the purview of the deputy assistant secretary of state for academic programs. Global enhances international education opportunities through student mobility to and from the United States, including work with schools, community colleges, vocational/technical schools, and universities. It also engages international professionals working on an array of critical issues, including the climate crisis, global health, and freedom of the press.
International education and student mobility are crucial to U.S. economic prosperity and national security.
“When international students and scholars come to the United States—and when Americans study abroad—they bring their talents, perspectives, and cultures to their new communities. And when they work with peers to advance research and knowledge, they spark innovation and forge bonds across borders that can last a lifetime,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his remarks for International Education Week in 2022.
EducationUSA, with an international network of advisors on the topic of U.S. higher education and Regional Educational Advising Coordinators (REAC), connects with millions of international students wishing to pursue higher education in the United States. In 2021, more than 948,000 international students contributed over $32 billion to the U.S. economy, making higher education a top 10 services export, while supporting more than 300,000 American jobs.
Blinken, however, explained that “it’s about more than the bottom line. Many international students decide to stay here after they finish their education to start their own businesses or to contribute their talents to American companies and American communities.”
Attracting talent from around the world helps fuel American prosperity and maintains the U.S. at the center of global innovation.
Established in 2015, the USA Study Abroad branch brings together programs advancing vital U.S. national interests by expanding and diversifying study abroad opportunities in U.S. higher education. Through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Programs, USA Study Abroad annually provides transformative international education experiences for approximately 3,500 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students. The Gilman Program alone has supported nearly 40,000 talented U.S. undergraduates with documented financial need (Pell grant recipients), making study abroad accessible for a diverse array of American students (70% identify as persons of color, 60% hail from small towns and rural communities, and 50% are first generation college students). Both CLS and Gilman support foreign language study and acquisition, ensuring a critical pipeline of foreign language speakers who contribute to U.S. national security. Other efforts, including the Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students program for U.S. higher education institutions, and Study Abroad Engagement Grants for U.S. diplomatic missions and Fulbright Commissions, build institutional capacity to support study abroad for more Americans in the future.
International education is crucial at all levels, from primary and secondary education to workforce development, and from higher education and advanced research to ongoing professional development. Global works with professionals across the spectrum, supporting current and future leaders.
Fulbright Teacher Exchanges strengthen education around the world, supporting exchanges for approximately 400 U.S. and international teachers annually. Collectively, as alumni, these teachers reach an estimated 75,000 school-age students every year thereafter. These educators foster mutual understanding in their communities, prepare students for a globalized, interconnected world, and increase students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills. From media literacy to STEM education to pedagogical best practices, Fulbright Teacher Exchange participants generate and sustain international dialogue and learning outcomes that positively impact children and youth around the world.
Through their work with community colleges, Global fosters international connections and provides participating institutions with tools to support their students and contribute to their communities.
“Education and educational reform, including vocational education and workforce development, are prevalent topics in bilateral and regional discussions between the United States and other countries because investing in skills, training, and education is an investment in our individual and collective futures,” said Anthony Koliha, director of the Office of Global Educational Programs.
For more than 45 years, the Humphrey Fellowship, a Fulbright Exchange, has equipped cohorts of international professionals with skills to address global challenges. With almost 61% of the 6,500 Humphrey alumni working in the government sector (and others working in the NGO and private sectors in areas related to public policy and the public good), Humphrey alumni are the key interlocutors for many of the Department of State’s diplomatic missions overseas on topics including: the climate crisis, substance abuse and treatment, media literacy and disinformation, the empowerment of women and girls, the rule of law, and many others.
“The robust exchange of students, researchers, scholars, and educators, along with broader international education efforts between the United States and other countries, strengthens relationships between current and future leaders. These relationships are necessary to address shared challenges, enhance American prosperity, and contribute to global peace and security,” states the 2021 Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education released by the Department along with the Department of Education.
The Office of Global Educational Programs will continue to play a pivotal role in supporting international education between the United States and the world.
Iris Davis-Hall, Kate Huckaby, and Mariah Magness are 2022-23 Virtual Student Federal Service interns with the Office of Global Educational Programs.