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Funding for International Education: Why It's Important

Posted By Lily Lopez-McGee, Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

With tuition rates on the rise and budget cuts to nearly all areas of spending in higher education, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that international education programming support has come under increased criticism and funding is at a serious risk of being reduced. Some political candidates have even stated publicly their intent to cut spending in the some “75 internationally focused programs that fall under the U.S, Department of State and U.S. Department of Education”. If nothing else has, this recent attack should mobilize professionals in the field to effectively communicate the importance of international education programming to the general public while ensuring that current support is being used effectively.

If we are to effectively defend against current threats to international education spending cuts, though, we must first take a serious look at the source driving criticism. We must face the reality that we are experiencing one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.This crise has been felt in all sectors of society and many of our offices have already experienced cuts to staff, budget, travel, etc.However despite this reality we must also remind ourselves and others that we have an economy that is inextricably connected to global markets. That means we have to develop and train language -proficient, culturally competent professionals. Furthermore, we should better champion the message that proclaims the current funding for international education programs is crucial to maintaining the U.S. economic strength and security.

There are certainly people who will be skeptical in hearing this message, however it is clear that if we don't fund opportunities that prepare U.S. students to be competitive in the global market, other nations will look to fill that void. There are 670,000 international students from across the globe studying at our institutions of higher learning in the U.S. alone. This number far exceeds the 260,000 U.S. students we send abroad annually (IIE 2009 Open Doors Report), a figure that clearly indicates the need to expand opportunities for students to go abroad.

As a nation, we need to encourage students to pursue language and study abroad that will prepare them for a globally-competitive job market. The current Open Doors figures highlight that we must also place particular focus on expanding these opportunities to underrepresented student groups. As a field, international education should not only expand how many students we send abroad, but also widen the types of students who have access to international opportunities. There is a vital need to send students abroad who represent the diversity reflected in our nation, and now is certainly not the time to reduce funding that currently supports those initiatives (ex. Gilman ScholarshipRangel Fellowship, and Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship).

After we have spread the message of why funding for international education programming is important, next we have to re-examine how we are utilizing the current support we receive.

Similarly, to justify that the current spending is meaningful in these tough economic times, we need to make sure current funding is working efficiently and demonstrates that students are benefiting academically, socially and professionally from these programs. We need to provide concrete evidence, in the form of program analysis that highlight the real impact of these programs. Programs should be evaluated in a meaningful way that holds faculty and providers accountable for the successes and shortcomings of their programs, and not simply to produce data. If we are to protect the future of international education funding, we must take the necessary, sometimes difficult, steps to ensure that every dollar spent on such programs is effectively being used.

International education is critical to developing the next generation of leaders, and we as international educators need to support initiatives that protect current spending while promoting innovative approaches to attracting more public and private support in these areas.

Lily Lopez-McGee currently serves as Program Manager with the UNCF Special Programs Corporation in the Institute for International Public Policy division. Among her many duties, Ms. Lopez-McGee manages student internships, language institutes and social media outreach.  She is fluent in Spanish and has traveled through parts of Latin America and Western Europe. She is a graduate of the University of Washington Evans School for Public Affairs, where she earned her Master's of Public Administration.

Tags:  career  Funding  global education  International Exchange  Outreach  professional skills  Resources  Scholarships 

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Changing the Face of International Educators

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 28, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

As the international education field strives to address issues of diversity and equity, what we cannot overlook is the lack of diversity among international education professionals. The demographic of international educators does not reflect the diversity of the students we aim to serve. Given that so many education abroad professionals are former study abroad participants themselves, the lack of diversity in the study abroad student population has a direct impact on the demographics of professionals in the field. The implications of this cannot be ignored. While we recognize that direct outreach to underserved students and their parents is essential to diversifying education abroad, it is equally clear that these students and parents may respond more favorably to advisors and education abroad representatives with whom they can identify.

Although I do not subscribe to the notion that one has to share the ethnic background of a student to effectively advise them, I do believe that these connections can enhance the relationship between advisor, student and their parents. This is particularly true when working with parents of first generation students and of students from certain ethnic backgrounds. That said, the reality is that few institutions are in the position to maintain a professional staff that reflects the diversity of the students on their campus and despite recent growth in international education, the number of diverse applicants for new positions remains relatively low. So what can be done?

First, we have to look for opportunities to partner with professionals of diverse backgrounds at our institutions and leverage these relationships to assist in reaching underserved students for international education opportunities. Although this does not directly diversify the field, it does help encourage more diverse students to study abroad by identifying its importance among diverse faculty and staff with whom students trust. Thus this increases the diversity among study abroad participants, which in turn increases the pool of potential candidates from diverse backgrounds for future international education positions.

We also have new opportunities to diversify the field each time an international education position becomes available, be it study abroad, international student services or other international education positions. When our administrative budget allows for a new hire, who are we encouraging to apply?Are promoting these opportunities to the same audience that we always have? By proactively promoting these opportunities to professionals who enhance and are committed to diversity, we will increase the number of diverse applicants for international education positions and we send a strong message to our peers about our institutions’ commitment to diversity among international educators. Many institutions have a diversity office that is responsible for maintaining a diverse workforce on campus. Be sure that you’re liaising with them when new positions open. Our colleagues in these offices can lead us to resources for reaching diverse candidates. There is also the Diversity Network Career Center, which was created as a platform for institutions and organizations that are serious and committed to recruiting diverse candidates to fill international education administration, faculty, and staff positions.

By creating and supporting efforts to diversify the field, collectively we can change the face of international educators and the study abroad students. This is no small task; it requires us to be open to new ideas and approaches in order to reach more diverse communities.The field of international education is comprised of creative, cosmopolitan and compassionate professionals who do this work, in large part, for the intrinsic value that it brings.As we look to the future, we must continue to display these qualities in our approach to diversifying the field of international education.

Andrew Gordon is the founder and president of Diversity Abroad. He is a graduate of the University of San Francisco, where he studied business, economics and Spanish. He has studied, traveled and worked throughout Europe, South America and Middle East. He started Diversity Abroad in 2006 with the focus of significantly increasing the number of non-traditional students who pursue international education opportunities.

Tags:  career  Diversity  Education Abroad Diversity  inclusion  International Exchange  Minority Students  mission  Outreach  professional skills  Resources  Study Abroad  Underrepresented Students 

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