Company/Organization/University: Association of International Educators

International Education Post-September 11

NAFSA and the Alliance have long maintained that international education and exchange are critical components of U.S. national security and foreign policy. As the United States seeks to fashion its response to the tragic events of September 11, this type of engagement with the world is even more important.

It is through international education that our nation will expand the educational and exchange infrastructure through which we produce and renew foreign-language and foreign-area expertise. The decline in competence in this area became strikingly apparent when September 11 revealed the paucity of expertise in critical languages and areas in federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This is a direct reflection of the demise of teaching and research capacity in these subjects at our academic institutions.

It is through international education that we will continue to renew our capacity for global leadership by educating successive generations of future world leaders, who come to the United States as international students. The exaggerated and inaccurate rhetoric about foreign students that has become too common since September 11 has obscured the indisputable reality that foreign students are overwhelmingly a net asset for U.S. security. They are a critical component of graduate education in the United States, and they bring important educational, economic, and cultural benefits to colleges, universities, and communities across the country. Most importantly, they are possibly the most under-appreciated success of U.S. foreign policy. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, "I can think of no more valuable asset to our country than the friendship of future world leaders who have been educated here." Granted that appropriate immigration controls are necessary, the United States must continue to welcome foreign students.

It is through international education that we will send more American students to study abroad and prepare them to function effectively in a global environment. In this day and age – and especially since September 11 – no American should graduate from college without a basic knowledge of at least one world area and foreign language. The best way to accomplish this is by making study abroad a routine component of U.S. undergraduate education. Polling data suggest that students and parents recognize the importance of language learning and study abroad--but resource constraints, lack of programs, rigidities in higher education curricula, and student perceptions of the job market have combined to limit participation. The United States can no longer afford to be passive about promoting study abroad.

It is through international educational and cultural exchanges that we will promote international understanding and introduce foreign citizens, scholars, and professionals to the United States. Post-September 11, the fundamental U.S. interest in providing opportunities for people from other countries to experience and understand the United States could not be clearer. Yet funding for exchange programs has declined by 40 percent in real-dollar terms over the past decade. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange. (January 2002). “International Education Post-September 11”

Toward an International Education Policy for the United States: A White Paper for the President-elect’s Transition Team

“In the two decades following World War II, visionary leaders understood that the challenges of the cold war required that Americans be knowledgeable about the world, and they created international education programs to endow Americans with the skills necessary to compete in that environment. Today our nation faces global challenges that, although less stark, are at least as profound. Yet our commitment as a nation to international education..that is, to imparting effective global literacy to students and other citizens as an integral part of their education..is in doubt.

The end of the cold war did not mean an end to international, civil, and ethnic conflict. The defense of U.S. interests and the effective management of global unrest in the next century will require more, not less, ability on the part of Americans to understand the world in terms other than their own.

Globalization is obliterating the distinction between foreign and domestic concerns. Most domestic problems in today.s world are also international. The global economic and technology revolutions are redefining the nation.s economic security and reshaping business, life, and work. The opening of global markets, the explosion of trade, the globalizing effects of Internet technology, and the need for U.S. business to compete in countries around the world require much more global content in all U.S. education, as well as more Americans with specific foreign language and country expertise.

The world is coming to us, like it or not. Immigrants are changing the face of American society. Foreign-born experts pace America.s scientific leadership. The American workforce is now multicultural, and customers for American products are found everywhere the Internet goes. These realities help fuel U.S. development, but they also create new needs, both for managers who can think globally and for tolerance and cross- cultural sensitivity in our neighborhoods and workplaces.

In short, international and cross-cultural awareness and understanding on the part of U.S. citizens will be crucial to effective U.S. leadership, competitiveness, prosperity, and national security in the next century. Yet..all the laws on the books notwithstanding.. the United States effectively lacks a coherent, coordinated, operational policy for educating its citizens internationally.

What is needed is a policy that promotes international education in the broadest sense, including supporting the learning of foreign languages and in-depth knowledge of other cultures by Americans, promoting study abroad by U.S. students, encouraging students from other countries to study in the United States, facilitating the exchange of scholars and of citizens at all levels of society, and supporting the educational infrastructure through which we produce international competence and research.

On April 19, 2000, President Clinton issued a memorandum to federal agencies instructing them to take certain steps to promote and facilitate international education. Under the leadership of the Departments of State and Education, a great deal of useful work has been done to implement that memorandum, including the celebration of the first .International Education Week. November 13-17, 2000, which was a resounding success on campuses and in communities across the nation. But much more can and must be done. We call upon the new administration to renew and strengthen the U.S. commitment to international education, building on the last administration.s initiative.


An international education policy that effectively promotes U.S. interests in the twenty- first century should do the following:

International, Foreign Language, and Area Expertise

Globalization expands the nation.s need for international competence. To maintain U.S. security, well being, and global economic leadership, we need to increase the depth and variety of international expertise of Americans in government, business, education, the media, and other fields. Although the Internet dramatically increases opportunities for global collaboration, technology alone cannot substitute for the expertise developed through serious study and substantive international experience.

American foreign language skills are in critically short supply and will remain so until we take bold steps to enhance the infrastructure for teaching foreign languages in our institutions. The U.S. government requires 34,000 employees with foreign language skills, and American business increasingly needs internationally and multi- culturally experienced employees to compete in a global economy and to manage a culturally diverse workforce.

An international education policy should:

  • Set an objective that international education become an integral component of U.S. undergraduate education, with every college graduate achieving proficiency in a foreign language and attaining a basic understanding of at least one world area by 2015. New technologies should be employed creatively to help achieve this objective.
  • Promote cultural and foreign language study in primary and secondary education so that entering college students will have increased proficiency in these areas.
  • Through graduate and professional training and research, enhance the nation.s capacity to produce the international, regional, international business, and foreign- language expertise necessary for U.S. global leadership and security.
  • Encourage international institutional partnerships that will facilitate internationalized curricula, collaborative research, and faculty and student mobility.

International Student Recruitment

The millions of people who have studied in the United States over the years constitute a remarkable reservoir of goodwill for our country, perhaps our most underrated foreign policy asset. To educate international students is to have an opportunity to shape the future leaders who will guide the political and economic development of their countries. Such students gain an in-depth exposure to American values and to our successful multicultural democracy, and they take those values back home to support democracy and market economies.

International students contribute significantly to national, state, and local economies; the more-than 500,000 who studied in the United States in the academic year 1999- 2000 at the post-secondary level, along with their dependents, spent more than $13 billion on tuition, fees, and living expenses, making international education the fifth- largest U.S. service-sector export. For a generation, the United States could take for granted its position as the destination of choice for international students. This is no longer the case. For lack of a proactive policy for attracting such students, the United States is losing its dominance of the international student market to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries that have launched aggressive recruitment strategies. The U.S. share of the international student market has fallen nearly ten percent in two decades.

Accordingly, an international education policy should:

  • Set an objective to arrest the decline in the proportion of internationally mobile students who select the United States for study at the post-secondary level and to recapture 40 percent of this market for the United States.
  • Promote the study of English by international students in the United States, and promote the United States as the best global provider of English training services and materials.
  • Modernize and streamline visa, taxation, and employment policies and regulations to facilitate entry into the United States for bona fide short-term and degree students and to enable these students to maximize their exposure to American society and culture through internships and employment.

Study Abroad

Although the number of American college and university students who study abroad for credit is increasing.it topped 100,000 for the first time in 1997-98.study abroad participants remain less than one percent of our roughly 15 million undergraduates, and many students still lack access to study abroad programs through their institutions. We need not only to vastly increase the numbers of U.S. students studying abroad, but also to increase the proportion studying in non-European areas of growing importance to U.S. interests, in academic and professional fields outside the liberal arts, and in languages other than English.

If American students are to be able to function effectively in the world into which they will graduate, it must become the routine.not the exception.for them to study abroad in high quality programs. For that to happen, the United States requires a policy to promote global learning.a policy that recognizes that providing Americans with opportunities to acquire the skills, attitudes, and perceptions that allow them to be globally and cross-culturally competent is central to U.S. security and economic interests in the twenty-first century.

To this end, an international education policy should:

  • Set an objective that 20 percent of American students receiving college degrees will have studied abroad for credit by 2010, and 50 percent by 2040.
  • Promote ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender diversity in study abroad.
  • Promote the diversification of the study abroad experience, including: increased study in nontraditional locations outside the United Kingdom and Western Europe; increased study of major world languages..such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian..that are less commonly learned by Americans; and increased study of under-represented subjects such as mathematical and physical sciences and business.
  • Promote the integration of study abroad into the higher-education curriculum, and increase opportunities for international internships and service learning.

Exchanges of Citizens and Scholars

The United States benefits from a great wealth of exchange programs, some federally funded but many more funded privately. They operate at all levels, from high school to higher education to the business and professional realms. Armies of American volunteers make these programs possible, hosting visitors in their homes and serving as resources and guides to their communities. Exchange programs uniquely engage our citizenry in the pursuit of our country.s global interests, and offer opportunities for substantive interaction in the broadest possible range of fields.

These exchanges also offer unparalleled opportunities for intercultural learning. Many of today.s world leaders first experienced America and its values through exchange programs. But these valuable programs are hemmed in by diminished policy priority and by bureaucratically imposed regulations that make them more difficult than necessary for nongovernmental and community organizations to manage.

The international education policy should:

  • Invigorate federal programs and reform regulations governing private efforts in order to promote citizen, professional, and other exchanges that bring future leaders from around the world to the United States for substantive exposure to our society, and that give future American leaders opportunities for similar experiences overseas.
  • Promote the international exchange of scholars in order to enhance the global literacy of U.S. scholars, ensure that the United States builds relationships with the best scholarly talent from abroad, and strengthen the international content of American curricula.

Mobilizing the Resources

The federal government cannot do it all. Colleges, universities, and community colleges must further internationalize their curricula and campuses, and must provide enhanced global opportunities for students and faculty. Higher education institutions, state governments, private foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and the business community (which will be the primary beneficiary of a globally literate workforce) all need to accept their responsibilities, increase their support for international education, and forge creative partnerships to achieve these important national goals. But the federal role is crucial in setting a policy direction, creating a conceptual understanding within which members of the public can define their roles, and using federal resources to leverage action at other levels.

Accordingly, the policy should:

  • Clearly articulate the national interest in international education and set a strong policy direction to which citizens can relate their own efforts.
  • Dedicate federal resources that are appropriate for the national interests served.
  • Stimulate involvement by, and leverage funding from, the states and the higher education, business, and charitable communities.


To be an educated citizen today is to be able to see the world through others. eyes and to understand the international dimensions of the problems we confront as a nation..skills that are enhanced by international experience. The programs we put in place today to make international experience integral to higher education will determine if our society will have a globally literate citizenry prepared to respond to the demands of the twenty- first century.

Accordingly, we call on the President to:

  • Announce the international education policy in a major address, decision memorandum, or message to Congress, and propose appropriate funding.
  • Appoint a senior White House official who will be in charge of the policy and responsible for meeting its targets.
  • Convene a White House summit of college and university presidents, other academic leaders, international education professionals, and NGO and business leaders to map out the specifics of the policy.
  • Assign specific roles to appropriate federal agencies.
  • Create an interagency working group of these agencies, chaired by the senior White House official, to ensure that policies and regulations affecting international education are consistent and coherent.
  • Create an advisory commission consisting of business leaders, state-level officials, and international education professionals from institutions of higher education, exchange programs, foundations, and appropriate professional associations to offer advice and guidance on program implementation.”

NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange. (December 12, 2000). Toward an International Education Policy for the United States: A White Paper for the President-elect’s Transition Team.”