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BOSTON — New England’s export-dependent economy and magnetic attraction for foreign students are parts of a single process of internationalization that will touch virtually every aspect of New England life in the 21st century, according to articles to be published next week in Connection: New England’s Journal of Higher Education and Economic Development.
Nearly 39,000 foreign students enrolled at New England colleges and universities last academic year, accounting for about 9 percent of the 453,787 studying in the United States, according to a New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) analysis of new data from the New York City-based Institute of International Education.
What is the relationship between world trade and foreign student enrollment? “For starters, when a foreign student pays tuition and fees at one of the region’s colleges or universities, a New England service is being exported,” writes Connection Editor John O. Harney. “But foreign enrollment also has a less quantifiable effect on trade. Indeed, with a few notable exceptions, the nations whose students travel to New England in the largest numbers — and make contacts here — are the same ones with which New England conducts most of its trade.”
Connection is NEBHE’s quarterly journal — and America’s only regional journal on higher education and economic development. “Cover Stories” in the new issue examine international issues in New England, ranging from export trade to international education and foreign enrollment at the region’s 260 colleges and universities.
The “Cover Stories” are accompanied by charts and tables on New England’s export trade and foreign enrollment, as well as a “mini-directory” of New England and national organizations involved in international trade and international education.
Connection commentators warn of a mismatch between U.S. students’ international awareness and global trends. New England students who study foreign languages still tend to choose Spanish, French or German, and the relatively few who study abroad still overwhelmingly choose Western European destinations.
Yet, the six of the top seven countries of origin for foreign students in New England are in Asia. The six are Japan, China, India, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. (Canada ranks third as an origin for foreign students in the region.) And though Asian and Latin American countries buy just 34 percent of New England’s manufactured exports, that share is growing dramatically.
Nonetheless, many New England colleges and universities have launched aggressive international recruiting efforts and other internationally oriented programs, according to Connection. For example, the University of Connecticut and five other universities in the United States, Canada and Mexico recently agreed to a three-year academic exchange project, permitting UConn students to study and pursue internships in Canada or Mexico.
And some New England community colleges also offer programs that had traditionally been the province of four-year colleges: A Northern Essex Community College program gives students the opportunity to study at Bangalore University in India and more than 20 other foreign campuses. Middlesex Community College provides a three-week summer program in China.
NEBHE President John C. Hoy warns that recent legislative efforts reflect an isolationist attitude hostile to international education programs. Upon the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright program, America’s most prominent international student exchange program, Congress cut the program’s budget by nearly 20 percent.
And despite the obvious growth in importance of China and the rest of Asia, federal and foundation support for Americans to study in China has actually declined. Other U.S. initiatives in Latin America and Africa experienced tragically shortsighted funding cuts, too.
The new issue of Connection also features Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario J. Molina’s thoughts on “enjoying science,” as well as commentaries on philanthropy in New England and copyright issues in the age of distance learning.
A summary of Connection articles follows:
A Global Connection: Foreign Enrollment, International Education and World Trade • While nearly half a million foreign students studied in the United States in 1995-96, only 84,403 Americans studied abroad for credit — and only 14 percent of those remained abroad for a full academic year. Moreover, New England’s foreign enrollment grew by less than 0.2 percent last year in the face of stepped-up worldwide competition for foreign students, warns NEBHE President John C. Hoy. “Flat foreign student enrollment has significant consequences for New England’s higher education enterprise and overall economy,” Hoy notes, adding that “foreign students spend more than $700 million annually in New England on college tuition, room and board and living expenses. They also provide one another and their American peers with vital cross-cultural exposure.”
The Global Economy: Where Does New England Fit In? • Bank of Boston Senior Economist and New England Economic Project President Richard J. DeKaser warns that export-intensive New England has not penetrated fast-growing markets. Canada and Western Europe account for two-thirds of New England’s merchandise exports, but less than half of the nation’s — hardly surprising given the region’s Atlantic Rim location and historical connections to Europe,” writes DeKaser. “The corollary, of course, is that New England’s exports are underrepresented in the developing countries of Latin America and Asia — markets that have accounted for ever-growing pieces of the overall U.S. export pie in recent years.”
These School Ties Bind Continents • Outgoing Massport Executive Director Stephen P. Tocco traces the relationship between New England higher education, world leaders and international business connections Korean independence figure Yoo Kil Ju’s journey to Salem, Mass., in the late 19th century through Korean Air President Yang Ho Cho’s recent announcement of three times weekly service between Boston and Seoul. But the region’s continued leadership is not assured. “Other states and regions increasingly recognize the economic and intellectual benefits that foreign enrollment brings,” writes Tocco. “Aggressive, cooperative recruiting of foreign students today will provide New England with vital links to the Bhuttos, Peis, Yamanis and Trudeaus of the 21st century.”
International Education for a Multipolar World • Connecticut College President Claire L. Gaudiani explains how one private liberal arts college is “reconceiving international education “not only to ensure New England’s prosperity, but also to achieve global stability and improve the lives of the poor.” Among other proposals, Gaudiani calls on the region’s governors, legislators and leaders of business and higher education to collaborate on a “New England Plan for Global Workforce Competitiveness,” perhaps entailing new regionwide assessments of educational performance, projections of future workforce demands and strategies to give students hands-on experience in the region’s internationally oriented organizations.
Community College of the World • Once upon a time, international education was widely perceived as an opportunity for wealthy White women attending high-priced, finishing schools to spend their junior year in Paris or Rome. Not anymore. Middlesex Community College President Carole A. Cowan and Associate Provost Frank M. Falcetta explain how the transformation of international education is powerfully illustrated at Middlesex Community College. The public two-year college with campuses in Bedford and Lowell, Mass., has launched an array of international programs for its traditionally working-class students, as well as faculty and businesses in the Merrimack Valley and Boston’s northwest suburbs.
Public Colleges and Universities Vie for New England’s Elusive Philanthropic Dollar • Tufts University historian and director of corporate and foundation relations John C. Schneider explores New England’s philanthropic condition in light of demands on the region’s public colleges and universities to begin major fundraising. “As New England public colleges and universities make their entree into big-time private fundraising, they must crack an age-old New England bias in favor of private institutions, a poor regional record in philanthropy and flat foundation and corporate support of higher education,” writes Schneider. But there’s also plenty of reason for optimism.
Enjoying Science • Mexican-born Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario J. Molina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology urges New England’s underrepresented minority students to seek enjoyment in scientific discovery. “There is a myth that science is lonely work — and it can be — but it need not be so in a college or university,” writes Molina.
The University of Massachusetts and Economic Development • University of Massachusetts President William M. Bulger offers observations about the land-grant university’s oversized contribution to the Bay State economy. “The University of Massachusetts receives about $400 million from the state annually, but as a result of grants, federal funds and other factors, the university spends about $1.5 billion,” Bulger writes. “As that $1.5 billion reverberates around the economy, the university’s economic impact rises to $3.6 billion in annual economic activity and 25,700 jobs. That’s a ninefold return on Beacon Hill’s investment in the university.”
New England’s School-Age Population: Listening for an Echo • Connection examines how the baby boom echo will affect New England’s school-age demographics. In a nutshell: Look for New England’s overall K-12 population to shrink by the year 2006 because of smaller and smaller classes entering the early grades. But at the same time, the larger cohort of New Englanders born in the mid-1980s will be working its way into high school. As a result, the number of New England public high school graduates is projected to grow steadily from 112,100 in 1996 last spring to 135,710 in the year 2005, when the number will drop off.
Copyrights and the Virtual Classroom • As distance learning becomes more widespread, so do sticky copyright issues. Yet the law provides little guidance on how use and misuse of distance learning material may violate copyright laws. Connection Editor John O. Harney summarizes a New England Board of Higher Education report that sorts out some of the murky issues.