The United States higher education community has fended off many challenges faced by them previously, which includes the COVID-19 Pandemic as well as the changing international policies because of the upcoming elections. Still, a significant amount of ‘perceived barriers’ remain for potential students looking to get higher education in the US, and it will be detrimental for the industry as well as for the fulfilling hiring requirements in the future.
Recently a panel of experts met online to discuss the strengths and weakness in the US higher education industry, predict hurdles the industry is going to face in the future and how the educational institutes along with educators should work together to solve challenges faced right now.
Commencing the panel discussion Joann Ng Hartmann, Senior Director of IEM-ISS Services at NAFSA applauded her organisation for mobilising the higher education community and industry when they needed them to fight the ban by ICE on international students in the country. She reinforced the belief that it was their collective voice which was able to make ICE retract the ban on the foreign students if their course was conducted online and advocate for what is right for these students.
Deputy assistant secretary, Caroline Casagrande for Academic Programs at the Department of State, said that massive effort has undergone to highlight the importance of higher education as a sector at the United States Congress. She also went ahead and stated that no previous administration has put in this much work in promoting getting higher education in the US. She wants that when anyone walks into an American community centre in their country, they should feel that not only American education is attainable, but their centre made it possible.
Ms Casagrande remarked that affordability of education was a significant concern and area of focus for her organisation because no matter how many surveys they conducted, affordability was a growth barrier for the international students. She believes that the department has made some variations to the financial decisions to make education more affordable for families.
The panellist agreed that the US Education sector still faced a lot of issues, the biggest among them was the move to convert all classes online due to the COVID-19 Pandemic according to Andrea Felder the assistant Vice Provost for undergraduate admissions at American University. He said that they had students from 120 countries around the world, and all the different time zones were posing as a problem for students to attend classes.
The panellists agreed technology has played a significant role in helping international students in not being able to attend classes on campus and getting their degree program content being delivered to them online.
David Di Maria, the associate vice provost for International Education at the University of Maryland, believes the most difficult challenge even compared to previously mentioned ones is to change the perception of students and their families to consider the US as a destination for higher education. He went to explain that it was because of the recent unpredictability in international policies and the civil unrest.
Felder pointed out that they are going to face more competition from countries like Australia, Canada, UK and New Zealand and even though policies to enrol are in place the perception is going to drive potential students away from the United States.
Another critical concern was the omission of the duration of status in the newly proposed rule by the DHS because usually, the time from of the course does not match up with the student’s study program. Additionally, cuts considered for the OPT program will be a major for recruiting students from countries like India.