Sexual Assault – A Worldwide and Widespread Problem on College Campuses

While we here at International Student Insurance have been working on sexual assault prevention programs in the United States geared at international students, it is important to recognize that this is not just a US issue. In the time of the #MeToo movement, other countries who host international students are looking inwardly to evaluate their procedures on college campuses, and realizing they have a long way to go. International students in general are considered to be at a higher risk of sexual violence since they are more likely to be isolated, lacking a safety net, perhaps new at navigating the culture of dating, and may not feel comfortable in a new language, among many other reasons. As such, it is even more important that colleges and universities provide awareness and education to help international students know their rights and resources when it comes to sexual assault. Outside of the US, other top countries that receive international students such as Canada and Australia are revamping their support services and are creating programs to shed light on what has become a major issue for colleges and universities across the world.

Australia

In Australia, advocacy groups and journalists found that their system was far from perfect. Reports of sexual assault took too long to investigate, they did not have good communication procedures in place, and some universities would even place the responsibility with the victim, advising the survivor to change their class schedule or avoid interacting with the perpetrator.

In 2017, 31,000 students across the nation were surveyed to investigate the prevalence and nature of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. The report conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) found that there was a high rate of sexual violence on college campuses, that there was widespread under-reporting, and that there was an overall lack of university policies and procedures aimed at addressing the problem. The study found that 1 in 15 university students were sexually assaulted in 2015-2016 and 1 in 2 students reported having been sexually harassed in 2016.

While we don’t yet know the impact this awareness has generated, we do know that Australian universities are reviewing their policies and procedures, and that funding has been secured to administer the study every three years to provide insight into how things are changing on college campuses.

Canada

Australia is not alone. Canada is also realizing that they need more resources to effectively educate and respond to the number of sexual assault allegations. For example, a report  cited that the University of British Columbia (UBC) had ‘countless unresolved issues’ when it comes to reports of sexual assaults on campus. In response, the school is now hiring more staff, implementing more training and programming, and creating new spaces on campus to deal with sexual violence. They are working on launching a new investigation office along with support services for survivors. Many of these services have been launched in the last two years, and they are still working on streamlining services, as well as  figuring out their communication plan – but all with the aim of creating a safe and supportive campus for students.

With other Canadian schools in the same shoes as UBC, a Vancouver immigrant services organization named MOSAIC is working to help school staff reach international students more specifically, since they are at a higher risk than domestic students.  MOSAIC is putting together a series of workshops for staff at schools to help them develop ways to better assist students who report being assaulted. Their overall goal is to let international students who have been assaulted know that they do not have to be afraid to reach out for help.

If your school is looking for a training on Sexual Assault Awareness designed to reach international students, we recommend this training module  that was compiled in partnership with RAINN. With a PowerPoint presentation, activities, videos, pamphlets, and a proctor guide that will guide the presenter through the entire training, international students will explore the concepts of consent, bystander intervention, students’ rights, reporting, and more. In addition, ISI has created a student info page for students to engage with the information and material right online, and schools are welcome to both link and share this with their international students.

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The 2019 EIC School the World Team Helps Complete School

This blog was written by Greg Heindel, one of the 2019 EIC School the World team members. 

You can learn a lot about a person when you travel. You can learn even more about yourself, or an entire culture if you are willing to commit yourself.

Today most of the 2019 School the World volunteer team is around 30,000 ft above sea-level cramped in flying sardine cans pointed towards different parts of the world after departing from Guatemala and successfully completing the construction of three new classrooms and two playgrounds for Caserio Chuchun, a community of Sacapulas. We all have a feeling of accomplishment, but the sense of fulfillment comes from far more than the concrete development we assisted with.

After spending a week with the community members of Sacapulas including visiting the citizens in their homes, speaking with the municipality, and working side by side with the community, it is quite clear that they already have the drive and desire to reach their educational goals. The collaboration between the School the World team and their community is what gave them the foundation and facilities to move forward and we were sent off with a ceremony that showed their absolute appreciation for everyone involved.

The mayor and his municipal staff were present and gave heartfelt speeches to thank our team, the parents, and the community for all of their hard work. The beautifully decorated ceremony included live local musicians, gift exchanges, home cooked meals, dancing, and lots of playing on the new playgrounds as they saw us off on our journey back home. Our goodbyes were long and it was sad but we left smiling from ear to ear as we piled back into the buses bound for Antigua.

By this point the EIC School the World team was used to the bumpy roads down the mountainside under skies lacking any clouds or even a jet streak. We were weaving in and out of traffic, as aggressively as it was natural for commuters in Guatemala, perusing alongside the active volcanoes with only a few words of congratulations and pleasantries exchanged as we soaked in all that was accomplished as a group and as individuals.

It was well worth the peace within the silence because we knew that we still had one last night together to share our personal stories and feelings about our experiences before departing to our home countries. Needless to say, we will all bring something new back with us and will return the favor when we return next year to assist in constructing another elementary school in Guatemala.

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Day 5: Our Last Full Day Working On-Site

This blog was written by Greg Heindel, one of the 2019 EIC School the World team members. 

We woke to the sound of roosters crowing just slightly later than our usual dawn patrol – today we are in for a treat. While we waited for the night crew’s mud to cure, the team loaded up in their buses and headed off down the winding road to the market Chichicastenango.

Guatemala is known for its brilliantly colored textiles, woven into scarves, satchels, clothing and other beautifully hand-crafted items. Among other products were fresh tamales, traditional wood Aztec masks, and novelty souvenirs galore. There is something to know about shopping in the market of Chichicastenango – they have a bartering system and if you’re not aware you will pay the price in Quetzal (approx. 8Q to 1USD). The rule of thumb is if you are speaking English then your quoted price will be at three times the actual market value and the vendors love to drive a hard bargain! But, after a few practice runs and with a little help from the veterans, we made it out with shirts on our backs, some change in our pockets, and loads of lovely gifts and souvenirs.

The change of pace ended after only an hour and we headed back to Chuchun to finish what we started the prior evening – pouring the floors of the remaining two classrooms. With our deadline closing in on us during our last full day on-site, we began to hand mix the first of two of our largest batch of (approximately 3 tons) concrete mix right on the ground. The team has grown very familiar with the recipe:

Elapsed time: 45 minutes
Ingredients:
15 Wheelbarrow loads of sediment/dirt
12 Wheelbarrow loads of gravel
12 80lb bags of concrete
Water

Directions:
Mix sediment and concrete thoroughly. Knead your new mixture into a large circle like a hand-tossed pizza. Add rocks evenly across your mix. Next, saturate your fresh concrete mix thoroughly with water and let sit for five to ten minutes. Stir well and serve.

With plenty of extra hard-working hands on deck the concrete was mixed and poured into the remaining two classroom throughout the day. Meanwhile, other members of the team alternated between spreading gravel around the large playground, planting flowers

With the sun setting, we cleaned the rubbage from the work area while the local senoritas swept the front play area in preparation for the closing ceremony the next day. Even though the team still has a small amount of work to finish, we all left feeling incredibly fulfilled and headed off to have our last supper together as a complete group.

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Day 4: EIC Team Cultural Immersion

The alarm clocks started going off at 5am. The EIC team got ready and had their coffee (Ana got sugar for us to add in- one of the many things we take for granted). We packed our lunch sandwiches and headed out.

After the nearly two hour drive to the community’s school, we were greeted by the kids and their enthusiasm never fails to put a smile on our faces. Today, while half of us worked on the new playground for the school, the other half was divided into teams and went to visit the home of one of the members of the community. Sutherland, Bryanna, and Emil got to go first while Greg and I began mixing the cement and hauling gravel along with our other teammates left from IMG, Ivywise, and Flywire.

The home visits were an incredible experience on their own. Sutherland learned how the locals make their candy and got to make her own candy on the shape of a snake. Emil and Bryanna learned about the process of grinding corn to feed the family’s chickens and to make the dough for the tortillas. Corn is a very crucial part of Guatemalan’s diets as it’s used for the tortillas and served with every meal in Guatemala.

After 11am, Greg and I got put into our respective groups and walked over to the family we were visiting. Norma welcomed my group to her home and she walked us from the school to her family’s house. She lives about 10 minutes from the school and in the same land, she shares her home with her parent’s and one of her brothers. We had the pleasure of meeting her mother as well, whom mostly speaks the native language and just a bit of Spanish. Norma has 3 kids and you could see how as the generations get younger, they are starting to lose a lot of the native’s culture- starting with the language. However, Norma is adamant about teaching her children the customs of the people of Quiche, even if they don’t learn the language.

During the home visit she taught us how she sews the beautiful hair pieces that the women often wear in their head for special occasions. That’s how she makes her money. She also showed us how to make tortillas and had me try to make some- thankfully I’ve had some practice beforehand! At the end, we presented her with a few gifts that we brought for her and her family as a thank you for inviting us into her home. Norma and her children were very thankful for every single gift; once again reminding me how important the work that School The World and our teams do, and how thankful the community is for all of it.

During the afternoon, everyone worked extremely hard. We were tasked with finishing the floor on one of the three classrooms we are building. There was a lot of mixing and shoveling cement from one place to the other but we were able to finish most of it. As simple as this task may sound, mixing cement by hand is an incredibly arduous job. Needless to say, everyone was exhausted at the end of the day. Tomorrow, we will need to finish the rest of the floors for the other two classrooms so for tonight, we will all get plenty of rest!

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EIC Teaches in Guatemala

Today began before sunrise as sandwiches were packed and bowls of cereal quickly consumed alongside steaming mugs of coffee. The hour-something trek to the community seemed longer today, but the journey was quickly forgotten once we arrived at our destination.

Young, now familiar faces greeted us at the school gates with open arms. Shouts of “hola” and friendly embraces have quickly become our morning ritual and one the team won’t soon forget – it seems like each day the warm hugs of the students have become tighter and longer than the day before. Some students have even begun to memorize our names and seek us out individually among the throngs of bodies on the basketball court in front of the school before classes begin.

After our initial greetings the team was shuffled in to a small but vibrant classroom full of smiling children. Unique to this year’s corporate trip, we were given the opportunity to teach a second grade class, and the curriculum was ours to decide. Choosing what we thought to be appropriate, Yessica explained to the class in Spanish that we’d be trying our hand at teaching the students several things in our language – among them, the alphabet and parts of the human body.

The students were quick to pick up the alphabet and after a few short minutes were singing right along with the EIC team. Once they had a decent grasp of their ABC’s in English and the familiar tune playing in the back of their heads, we played a few rounds of hangman, allowing each student their turn to come up to the board to choose and pronounce a letter of the English alphabet. Nearly every student skipped or ran to the board, and we ended with the class as the winners (despite the fact that our hangman had eyes, fingers, shoes, and even a bow in her hair).

After a quick lunch and a game of hide and seek with the sunshine, the team grabbed some paintbrushes and helped create a hopscotch court on the concrete directly in front of the school.  Armed with paints of varying colors, we crafted a jet for all of the schools students to enjoy tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the home of a local student and can’t wait to share more of our adventure with you!

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EIC School The World Day 2!

Antigua’s streets woke us up bright and early today. The day started with breakfast and slowly everyone gathered in the main hall to head out to Santa Cruz de Quiche. As the sun inched upward through the mountains, we packed our bags in the vans and the excitement to meet the Chuchun community increased by the minute.

The way to Santa Cruz consists of winding roads in between the breathtaking mountainous terrain of Guatemala. Our Envisage International team was full of renewed energy after yesterday’s travel day. Emil and Greg chatted away about the kind people of Guatemala. They were amazed at how whole families can ride together in motorcycles through these roads to get to their day-to-day activities. Meanwhile, Bryanna sat in the back of the van staring at the Volcan del Fuego, concerned that we should have a volcano escape plan- just in case. The Volcan del Fuego or Fire Volcano is one of Guatemala’s active volcanoes and last erupted in October of 2018. Ever since, it spits out ash clouds every few hours a day but the Guatemalan government is well prepared in case another eruption occurs. Elmer, our driver for today, explained to us that there are about thirty four volcanoes in Guatemala and about 3 of them are currently active.

In the meantime, Sutherland listened to my conversations in Spanish with Elmer and Chiara (from School The World) and tried to understand what we are talking about. Sutherland studied Spanish in preparation for this trip and she was able to understand about every three or four words. The Guatemalan mountains reminded me of Colombia, my home country. The towns are built in similar ways where the Catholic Cathedral is the center of the town and there is a main square where vendors gather to try and sell their products. One thing very unique to Guatemala were the traditional yet very colorful outfits of the locals. Pinks, blues, reds, and purples prevailed in their beautifully handmade clothes, especially those of women and children. The colors can be seen in their colorful public transportation too; the buses look almost festive.

When we arrived to the Chunchun community, we were greeted by whistles, cheers, applause, even fireworks! The mayor of the community gave us a warm welcome and played both the Guatemalan and the US National Anthem. The community also prepared dances and songs that they presented to us, of course in their typical attire. As the welcome ceremony progressed, the children’s curiosity got the best of them and they started asking us questions, asking us to take pictures with them and their families, and inquiring how we got all the way to their community. One of the parents told me that most of the children of this community only know Spanish, but the adults still retained much of their culture and language, K’iche’.

I was humbled by the kindness and warmth of the people of Chuchun. Ana, one of the representatives from School The World, told the mayor today was my birthday and they all surprised me by singing “Happy Birthday” as a community. Of course, no welcome ceremony is complete until the piñatas are emptied of their candy and everyone has had a chance to dance the typical songs from this region of Guatemala.

After the festive welcome ceremony, the EIC team along with the other groups got to work! For the next two hours, we were tasked with digging up 16-inches-deep holes where the new swings and slides will be placed. We braved the blazing sun; while two of us used a pickaxe to chip at the dirt and rock, the other two shoveled it into wheel barrels for the men to take away. After two hours of this, we finally accomplished our goal and walked away with only a few blisters. A small price to pay when we reflected on how hard the men of the community work to help build this school and playground.

The day ended with dinner and birthday cake as a group. The School The World team surprised me with a birthday cake. Special thanks to them for their kind gesture.

Tomorrow the real work begins! Bryanna, Sutherland, Greg, Emil, and I are prepared to work hard and give it our all.

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EIC Set to Build a Second School in Guatemala

With the undeniable success of Envisage International’s inaugural partnership with nonprofit, School the World, in 2018 EIC has sent a second group of employees to Guatemala. This year’s team of five – all based in the Neptune Beach office – have been tasked with helping to build a primary school and accompanying playground in a poverty-stricken Guatemalan community.

Day One

The team of volunteers landed early Sunday morning at the Guatemala City airport where they met fellow volunteers from International Medical Group (IMG) prior to boarding buses for the beautiful city of Antigua. One peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an hour later the team checked into a local hotel and had the opportunity to experience the magic of the city of Antigua.

The cobblestone streets made of varying size of worn stone offer only a small glimpse of the city’s charm. After a short walk, the team found themselves in the town center – a busy plaza met on two corners with a large yellow church. Tables sat on the edge of each sidewalk of the main square, full with still-sizzling street food, tourists, locals and vendors selling handmade jewelry and baroque tapestries of all shapes and sizes.

As the EIC team ventured deeper into the city they were met with local adults and children alike selling various items in the busy streets, from battery operated balloons to slices of fruit and local nuts. Choosing to walk on the safer side, the team took refuge from the heat in a local coffee shop and enjoyed tortilla soup, or “sopa” as the locals would say.

The night came to a close as the team shared a meal with members of School the World, and volunteers from Flywire, IMG and Ivywise at a local restaurant.  While the meals themselves were delicious (a choice of chicken, vegetarian dish, or steak), the universal favorite was the accompanying beverage, a freshly made and chilled limonada complete with lime slices.

Tomorrow the team will travel to the community and begin physically building the school. The team will share more updates and photos soon!

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Voice-user Interface is Growing Rapidly. What are the Drawbacks?

The way we communicate with our computers has drastically changed over the past decade. For the average person, the most common way to communicate with a computer is via their keyboards, but computers have greatly diversified. They are now coming in many different shapes and sizes. With the introduction of the first handheld cellular phone in 1973, we saw the keyboard shrink to fit on a mobile device. Again in 2007, we saw the introduction of the iPhone, giving users a touch interface. 

Fast forward to 2019, computers, home speaks, automobiles, and mobile phones offer Voice-user Interface, or VUI for short. VUI uses speech recognition software to enable users to interact with technology using just their voice. Speech is the most common and fundamental means of human communication, and being able to communicate with our devices in this way has increased the accessibility of electronic devices.

According to Adobe’s latest State of Voice Assistants report, 32 percent of consumers now own a smart speaker, up from 14 percent in January 2018. In the ever-evolving digital world where speed, efficiency, and convenience are constantly being optimized, VUI devices will continue to grow as more and more sectors of the economy are finding uses for speech recognition technology.

While many people have fallen in love with their VUI devices, there is a growing concern about the privacy and security of this new technology. One of the biggest concerns is the invasion of privacy. VUI devices are always in a listening state, waiting for a wake word. Having a device that is always listening to your conversation can sound like a George Orwell nightmare. it is important to trust the company creating your VUI devices as well as to read the privacy policy if privacy is a concern.

Device security is another major topic that is brought up in the list of concerns. The majority of VUI gadgets are connected to the internet, making it a potential target to hackers. While all major VUI device makers such as Google and Amazon are working towards making their devices as secure as possible, it is always a good idea to check for any possible security flaws on all your VUI devices.

Voice-user Interface technology is growing rapidly. People around the world are finding new ways to improve their lives using VUI devices. While these devices bring many positives to our lives, it is important to do the research and know about possible drawbacks to this new technology. As the old saying goes, “Better safe than sorry.”

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Top 8 International Education Predictions for 2019

1 Historic Decline in International Student Enrollment in the US

Since the 1948/1949 school year, when IIE began reporting on the number of international students in the US, there have been four years when the number of international students in the US has actually declined.  The first was in 1971/1972, when total enrollment dropped from 144,000 to 140,000. The other three years with declines were the 3 academic years after 9/11, which saw very modest declines of -2.4%, -1.3%, and -.05%, while the student visa process was overhauled.  With those exceptions, it’s been a 70 year history of steady growth. So when we say a “historic decline” we don’t mean a huge decline – simply that it’s a reversal of a 70-year trend. With smaller incoming classes the last two years, and likely larger drops over the next two years, we expect the 2018/2019 Open Doors Report from IIE to show a lower overall total.

1Efforts to Encourage Diversity in Study Abroad Will Ramp Up

We predict more initiatives encouraging underrepresented populations to study abroad in 2019, especially by colleges and universities directly. Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more focus on diversity through grants like the Capacity Building Grant for US Undergraduate Abroad, and IIE’s Generation Study Abroad Initiative. In fact, the IIE initiative includes more than 800 commitment partners aiming to not only double study abroad students but increase diversity before the end of the decade. Schools like NC State University are accepting this challenge and rolling out efforts like creating new scholarships for underrepresented students and hosting pre-departure orientation sessions geared towards minorities, LGBTQI+ students and other underrepresented students. And although during the past few years the IIE Open Doors report has shown a steady increase in ethnic diversity when it comes to students studying abroad (it now sits at nearly 30%), there is still room for growth.

Over the course of the next 12 months we will see increased strategy, grants and support put in place to increase diverse viewpoints in study abroad programs.

1More Turmoil and Adaptation Within the For-Profit Sector

The for-profit industry will continue to evolve and change through more mergers and transitions from for-profit to non-profit and at a quicker pace.  Last week we even saw National American University delisted from NASDAQ. Going into 2019, it is now or never for the schools to make the change. The sector could see more scrutiny with a new Congress and much uncertainty of who will have the helm in 2020.  These schools need to take advantage of Devos policies and lax oversight now or end up in deeper trouble down the road.

1Big Tech Will Make a Move to Disrupt the Healthcare Market 

The health insurance industry in the US is a behemoth, and insurance companies, in general, are slow to innovate with technology and efficiency improvements. We’ve seen this with our own business, where our own company with a committed tech team of five can often offer better interfaces and tech solutions than some of the massive players in the industry. With healthcare costs in the United States steadily rising, way faster than any other inflation, and a greater number of Americans becoming dissatisfied with their medical care, Amazon has announced its ambition to disrupt the healthcare market. The technology company that focuses on e-commerce and cloud computing is partnering with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create a new healthcare model that could be less like the traditional healthcare infrastructure and more like Amazon’s direct-to-consumer model.

We predict in 2019 a greater number of technology companies will move into the healthcare space. Expect to see Google, Apple, and possibly even Facebook following Amazon’s lead and pivot into a growing $3.5 trillion industry.

1Pathway Programs Take a Breath

Pathway programs are becoming increasingly popular across the globe, but especially in the US.  These public-private partnerships are a way for colleges and universities to increase their international student numbers and open up their recruiting pool to students that might not meet all of their academic and English language standards.  For the students, they get a year of extra attention on their English language skills and support acclimating to studying in the US all while earning first year credits.

However, pathway providers are feeling the challenges of the downtick of international students coming to the US.  Pathway programs are still relatively young in the international education industry. Some have been around long enough to show that the model can work.  However, even some of those pioneers are seeing lower numbers than they did four years ago. Others are breaking into the industry and trying to prove themselves for the first time.  

2019 will be a year of proving out the model in a relatively challenging time.  We think that there will be fewer new schools signing up with pathway providers, as they take a wait and see approach.  We think the current providers will double down to ensure the success of their current partnerships, increasing their creativity and initiative in finding new ways to fill seats college and university classrooms.  

1Enrollment From China Declines

Over the past 12 years, the United States has benefitted from massive growth in the number of Chinese students studying in the US.  According to the Open Doors Report, In the 2005/2006 school year, there were 62,582 Chinese students in the US, and for the next 12 years enrollment exploded, growing over 20% for five of those years and reaching 363,341 in the 2017/2018 year. Although growth has been slowing, we predict that next year’s Open Doors Report will show the first actual decline in the number of students from China enrolled in US colleges and universities.

The slowing Chinese economy, the trade war, the political rhetoric, the growth of China’s own higher education system – all of these factors combine with our own anecdotal experience to support our prediction.  In discussions at conferences around the world, again and again we’ve heard how Chinese students are preferring other destinations over the US.

1GDPR Enforcement Begins in Earnest

If there was one thing 2018 will be remembered for, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will almost certainly come to the forefront of many people’s minds. The GDPR update in 2018 saw the law expanded in many ways – but none more far-reaching than the geographic coverage. The law now purports to cover the treatment of personal data of any EU citizen, regardless of where that company holding the data resides.

The run-up to the May 25th 2018 deadline saw companies from all corners of the world scrambling to make sure their websites and data policies were all updated and compliant. Since this mad scramble, there has been a calm period, but there has been a hint of things to come with GDPR as we are starting to see the first few enforcements taking place. In September 2018, the Austrian Supervisory Authority issued a fine of €4,800 under GDPR and following that in October of 2018, the UK and Irish Supervisory Authorities served their first enforcement notices. We expect that these enforcement notices will become more common and start to scale up into 2019, and we will watch with interest for the first enforcement action outside of the EU.

1Decline in Reports of Sexual Assaults on College Campuses 

Betsy DeVos has proposed major changes to the existing Title IX guidance that will change the way sexual assault cases are handled on college campuses. While the final changes are still undergoing scrutiny, we predict that in the coming months the new changes will make it more difficult for victims to report and pursue cases of sexual assault, and thus the number of cases reported overall will decrease.

Some of the major changes include narrowing the definition of what “sexual assault” is, requiring schools to investigate incidents that occur on campus and not off campus (previous guidance had required schools to investigate incidents that occurred off campus by enrolled students), that there is a higher burden of proof to accuse someone of sexual assault from “preponderance of evidence” standard to a “clear and convincing evidence” standard, and that advisors would be able to cross-examine accusers in hearings over sexual assault complaints.

 

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2018 International Education Predictions and Outcomes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to revisit our 2018 predictions. Each year we come up with list of predictions related to the world of international education. Now that the year is almost over, let’s take another look at our predictions and see how we did!

1End of the Mandate Pushes Schools Away From ACA for International Students

Our Prediction from January:

Although Republican efforts over the summer to repeal the ACA (Obamacare) failed, that didn’t mean the landmark legislation was safe from attack. Instead, its been death by a thousand cuts – here’s a few of the efforts by the Trump Administration to undermine the ACA:

  • Steep cuts to Navigator groups and to Marketplace outreach efforts, to prevent education of people on the law and subsidies available to them;
  • Executive order aimed at providing more ACA-exempt plans;
  • Medicare/Medicaid Administrator giving an “unprecedented level of flexibility” to states requesting waivers from ACA rules;
  • Halting cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers;
  • Prohibiting U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employees from participating in Marketplace enrollment events;
  • Reducing the enrollment window;
  • Active video campaign by HHS to undermine the ACA;
  • and finally, in the tax bill just passed, eliminating the individual mandate that requires all US Citizens, Permanent Residents and Resident Aliens to have ACA-level coverage with essential health benefits.

Regardless of where you stand on the ACA, and most Americans wanted to keep and fix it, it was never very relevant to international students. It was geared towards lifetime coverage, not temporary visitors and most were exempt from the mandate anyway. With the end of the mandate, colleges and universities will accelerate the trend we’ve already seen – going away from ACA coverage for international students and embracing plans custom-built for international students.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Our own experience and anecdotal evidence confirm this trend, but without hard data we’ll take it as a half a win. In our prediction we highlighted how the ACA survived the repeal and replace votes in the Summer of 2017, but in a weakened state, especially due to the elimination of the individual mandate.  Although some colleges and universities are committed to an ACA plan because of state mandates or regional expectations, many schools need to reduce the cost of insurance to their students while ensuring they are adequately covered for their time in the US using a non-ACA plan custom-built for international students.  These custom-built plans can include some of the more popular provisions of the ACA, like preventative care and pre-existing condition coverage. Since the popularity of ACA cradle-to-grave style coverage has continued to drop, there are fewer insurance companies offering it.  Without the individual mandate, there are no longer any students that are required to have ACA coverage – how much this has contributed to the reduction in ACA plans is unknown, but the trend is clear.

1Open Doors Report Shows New High, Followed by Steep Drop-Off

Our Prediction from January:

For 45 years the number of international students in the US has grown every year, with the exception of the small declines seen from 2003 to 2006 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and resulting visa slowdowns. The Open Doors Report from November 2017 showed a 3.4% jump in total international students in the US, from 1,043,089 to 1,078,822, but it also showed new enrollments down about 7%, or 10,000 students, to 291,000. The question is, when will the decreasing number of new enrollments flatten out the overall growth in students?

Open Doors data is always a year behind, so the latest report reflects enrollments for the 2016/2017 school year – meaning most of those students made their decision to come to the US when the Trump Administration was still more reality TV than politically viable. Many signs are pointing to a bigger drop in enrollment for the 2017/2018 school year. Our prediction – although there will be a bigger drop in new enrollments, it won’t be enough to offset the giant new enrollment years we saw in 2013 to 2016. We’ll see one more all-time high in the November 2018 Open Doors Report, followed by a steep decline in the 2019 report as those giant new enrollment classes drop off.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Not surprisingly, we got this one right. The most recent Open Doors Report from IIE shows that the total number of international students in the US increased by 1.5%, while the new incoming class dropped for the second year in a row, by 6.6%.  One could quibble, of course, that a 6.6% decline is not a steep drop-off, and we’d accept that position.  But the Open Doors Report doesn’t show the full current picture, since its data is for the 2017-2018 academic year.  We’ve had another new class arrive since then, and another currently being recruited, and our own evidence gathered from recruiting fairs, google trends, the IIE Fall Enrollment snapshot, State Department visa issuance statistics and other reports and surveys are that we’re in for at least another two down years.

1Continued Turmoil and Adaptation Within The For-Profit Sector

Our Prediction from January:

2016 and 2017 were brutal years for the for-profit education sector. We saw the end of ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, the demise of the leading accreditation body ( ACICS), strict regulations put into place, hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits and fines, and a rapid decline in enrollment numbers and revenue.

Hello, 2018. Things have to get better, right? Things would appear so as we now have a for-profit friendly administration that has worked to undo regulations from the previous administration, and Wall Street is taking kindly to those that remain publicly traded. In fact, Adtalem Global Education (formerly Devry Education Group) stock is just a couple bucks away from a five year high.

However, it’s not a clear path to growth in the for-profit sector – rather we think there will be continued turmoil and adaptation as for-profits and not-for-profits try to figure out their futures. Adtalem announced they are unloading Devry and Keller School of Management to get them out of their portfolio and over to Cogswell Education (if the deal goes through). Their focus will then turn to their nursing and trade schools, more specifically, their medical schools in the Caribbean and growing Adtalem Education in Brazil (which currently boasts over 110k students with further growth in sight). Apollo Education stopped trading on Nasdaq on February 1st last year, giving stockholders $10 a share as they went to a private equity firm for $1.1 billion. However, the most shocking adaptation we’ve seen so far was the announcement that Purdue University was purchasing Kaplan University for $1.00 (plus a management deal), transforming them from a for-profit institution to a public university. This move was essentially a way for Purdue to reach non-traditional online students without having to develop their own online programs, while helping Kaplan with their for-profit woes.

Our prediction is that this trend will continue. We will see more partnerships between for-profits and public universities along with others continuing to move to a non-profit structure. More schools will also explore investing outside of the US due to less regulated and more lucrative markets like Brazil. Heck, we might even see another giant fall.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

This one is a solid yes, as 2018 was quite a tumultuous year in the for-profit sector. Just last week we received the news that Education Corporation of America, which owns Brightwood College and Virginia College, is closing the doors of 70 campuses across the US. So, as predicted, a giant has fallen in 2018. Additionally, we watched 18 for-profit schools close their doors for good and witnessed 7 mergers, including Bridgeport merging University of the Rockies with Ashford and moving them to a non-profit structure. Grand Canyon was also approved for non-profit status and many believe this will become the model for other for-profits to follow. In addition, the for-profit savior, Betsy Devos, bailed out the once leading accreditor ACICS after losing two-thirds of its members since 2016. If you recall, ACICS came under intense scrutiny since they were the accreditor for ITT Tech and many other shuttered for-profit universities.

Large for-profits like Adtalem Global (formerly Devry) continued to invest in overseas universities. Adtalem is moving their Ross University School of Medicine campus to Barbados and investing $10.5 million in a new research and pathology building for their Veterinary Medicine campus in St. Kitts. Laureate has sold off a handful of their overseas schools, but has refocused their efforts in Spain, Portugal, South and Central America. According to Laureate CEO, Eilif Serck-Hanssen, expanding in Brazil has been a top priority this past year.

1Canada and Australia Continue to Erode the US International Student Market Share

Our Prediction from January:

Canada and Australia have laid the groundwork to take advantage of the projected shrinking international student population in the US. According to the Times Higher Education, in the 2016/2017 academic year Canada has seen an 11% increase in the number of international students (192,000 total) and have a goal of 450,000 international students by 2022. Australia has over 480,000 students enrolled in the spring 2017 semester- a 15% increase over the previous year. On the other hand, the US only saw a 3% growth in the 2016/2017 year according to the Open Doors Report. And as discussed above, US schools saw a 7% decline in new international student enrollments in 2016/2017.

We all know the reasons… A new, not so immigrant friendly administration, gun violence across the country, and the cost of a US education, to name a few (read more in our blog – Canada’s Growing International Student boom). Canada and Australia are also investing in recruiting international students, offering them a friendly, less expensive place to get a high-quality education and perhaps even stay in the country after graduation.

We do not see much along these lines changing in 2018 which is why we are predicting that the US will continue to lose market share to Canada and Australia.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We admit it, this prediction was a gimmie. We have all seen the recent Open Doors data that paints the picture of the 2017-2018 school year and have felt the declines in 2018-2019 actual enrollment numbers. Challenges like the “Trump effect,” and US gun violence dominating the news have encouraged students to explore other options beyond studying in the US. Sitting at 490,000 international students our neighbors to the North have surpassed their 2022 goal of 450,000 international students; in Australia, they are seeing similar results as they reached 652,000+ international students in September- an 11% increase over the previous year.

According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, 95% of international students recommend Canada as a study destination and 51% plan on applying for permanent residency! In addition, the top sending countries to both Canada and Australia are China and India, two countries that make up 50% of the international students in the US.

1J-1 Visa Programs will Continue to Weather the Storm

Our Prediction from January:

While there were no major changes to the J-1 visa program last year, it certainly was a bumpy ride. In the spring of 2017 a draft executive order was leaked to the press that showed the administration’s desire to eliminate or severely restrict J-1 programs that had a work component, including work and travel, au pairs and interns/trainees. What the administration may have underestimated was the industry’s resilience and bipartisan support. With a big push the #savej1 campaign attracted widespread support from both sides of the political spectrum, along with business from all over the US – you can visit the #savej1 website that champions and builds support for the J-1 programs.

As far as we can see there are still many challenges ahead, and smooth sailing is not in the forecast for the J-1 visa program. However, they will weather the storm and continue forward stronger and more resilient than ever.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We’re giving ourselves a win on this one. The J1 visa programs have continued to weather the storm, but whereas 2017 could be defined as a hurricane, 2018 was certainly a little calmer. After the BAHA executive order in 2017, and all the confusion about what impact this would have on the J1 programs, there were no large scares of that scale in 2018. Strong bi-partisan support for the J1 program has helped, as has vocal support from the business community that suffers when there’s a lack of seasonal workers typically supplied through these programs. Turmoil at the State Department continued with the firing of Rex Tillerson in March, but the appointment of Marie Royce s the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, a strong believer in exchange programs, has provided hope that her support for the programs will help them thrive and grown into the future.

1International US High School Enrollments will Continue to Thrive

Our Prediction from January:

International students coming to study at US high schools more than tripled between 2004 and 2016 to 82,000, as reported by IIE in the summer of 2017, and we only expect this trend to continue in 2018. Nearly half of all these students (48%) come from China alone, and high schools are starting to become even more welcoming to international students with 500 more schools opening their doors in the last three years. However, there will be challenges ahead, with increased competition not only in the domestic market but also from countries like Ireland, the UK and the previously mentioned Canada and Australia. Schools will struggle to attract the same amount of growth that has been seen in the past while Australia in particular is growing its market share, with the fastest growth rate over the last 3 years of 34%, compared to the USA’s 12%.

We expect the US to hold firm at the number 1 spot in 2018 and continue to grow its market share, but with stronger growth from other countries, the US may struggle to hold onto the top spot in years to come.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We’ll have to accept a half-win on this one, since we don’t have hard data. A report released in August 2017 from the Institute of International Education (IIE) found a “strong increase” in F-1 visa holders enrolling in US high schools. This steady increase started in 2014 and by 2016 the number of international secondary students in the US had tripled.  Although we can’t get our hands on any comprehensive data on current numbers of international high school students in the US, based on everything we can glean we think it’s still growing.   We are seeing increased attendance at industry events, as more K-12 schools are opting to recruit international students at the high school level. Also, as reported by the PIE News, at a recent EducationUSA forum event, many EducationUSA advisers have reported increases in the number of inquiries they receive from students looking to study in the United States at the secondary level. Hopefully 2019 will bring about some solid data to track this growing trend.

1Universities Increase Focus on Smartphone Addiction and its Impact on the Mental Health of Students

Our Prediction from January:

In recent years more studies have surfaced from around the globe exploring the impact that technology has on the mental health of college students. For example, a 2017 survey by San Diego State University professor of psychology and author Jean Twenge had findings discussed in an article in The Atlantic that iGen (those born between 1995 and 2012) “teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.” Between social media, text messaging and internet browsing, smartphones in general get a lot of use on college campuses- and it’s beginning to turn a few heads.

In response to this issue boiling to the surface and the continued increase of smartphone use, we predict that this year many colleges and universities will buckle down and make addressing smartphone addiction a priority. The topic of mental health on campus in general seems ubiquitous these days, as more institutions incorporate mental health into orientation through resources like the International Student Insurance Mental Health Awareness video, and helplines like RAINN’s live chat and phone service. However, in 2018 we will see an added layer in the messaging as schools also raise awareness of phone use and how it could potentially impact the mental health of students.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

After our International Student Insurance (ISI) team presented on mental health awareness at ten of the eleven NAFSA regionals, it was clear that the focus on mental health of international students has grown during the past year. Initiatives to reduce stigma around mental health have increased on US college campuses; not only are students becoming more aware of the topic,  but many advisors are making mental health awareness a priority. In fact, hundreds of schools around the US have requested our ISI mental health training program to use on their own campus.

When narrowing the focus to mental health and smartphone addiction,  there has certainly been an uptick in the number of studies and conversations around this matter. For example, one study in Turkey on Smartphone Addiction Level Among a Group of University Students found that 48.7% were at a high-risk level of smartphone addiction. In a separate article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, research within the piece revealed that higher levels of smartphone use was associated with higher levels of stress and depression. Although various studies show that smartphone addiction is an issue, and some schools have started efforts to limit cell-phone use, a larger initiative to turn this information into a solution is not yet in place, so we get a half-right on this prediction.

1Touchless Interfaces Make a Big Leap Forward

Our Prediction from January:

“Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights.” By now we’ve all gotten used to the idea of asking Siri, Alexa, Google and Cortana for help recalling an obscure fact, sending a text message to a friend or playing our favorite song list. For 2018 and the coming years, the big leap for systems like Siri and Alexa will be understanding the context of a conversation and being able to thread conversations together to provide more insight automatically. What does this mean you can look forward to in the upcoming year? Expect to see these AI (Artificial Intelligence) front-ends start acting like real personal assistants, offering reminders about upcoming events or alerting you to things that you didn’t specifically schedule or configure.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Touchless Interfaces have made a major leap forward. In a single year, it has evolved from a neat feature on a smartphone into a technology that has integrated seamlessly with our daily lives. Google has invested heavily in touchless interface and is making great strides, as have Amazon and many others. The impact goes beyond convenience. For example, drivers can select a song via voice command, removing the need for a driver to take their eyes off the road, and in turn contributing to making the roads a safer place. Needless to say, touchless interfaces are here to stay and we nailed this prediction.

1More Schools Start to Use Mobile Messaging Apps

Our Prediction from January:

It’s no secret that mobile messaging apps are popular and only continue to grow. When it comes to apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, KakaoTalk, and LINE, billions of people are using them, including prospective international students. WeChat currently accounts for almost 30% of Chinese daily mobile-use time, according to QuestMobile, and while emails average 90 minutes before they’re read, the average text message is read within 90 seconds, according to the wireless association CTIA.

With mobile messaging apps continuing to gain user approval and having the ability to quickly reach students around the world, we predict that more colleges and universities will also give their stamp of approval when it comes to integrating them into their recruitment strategy. Not only do we think institutions will embrace the world of mobile messaging apps to put themselves where students are, but we’re also predicting that WeChat will lead the way as the top mobile messaging app that schools turn to in 2018.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We’re so close on this one. The chatter around using mobile messaging within recruitment is there, and some schools are already using it to keep in touch with current students; but when it comes to fully integrating messaging into recruitment and communication strategies there are still a few things to be figured out. In fact, Emma Gilmartin, Head of Social Media at University of Glasgow and part of the university’s award-winning communications office, recently stated in an interview with InsideHigherEd that even they haven’t quite harnessed WhatsApp messenger as a tool to communicate with students. We talked specifically about how to implement WhatsApp into a recruiting strategy in a recent blog post, but its not yet fully arrived as a strategy for most schools.

Additionally, we proposed that more schools would embrace Wechat as a means to recruit students in China. While institutional interest is certainly there,  the trend hasn’t exactly caught on like we anticipated. Perhaps due to limitation instead of desire? Organizations outside of China find it difficult (if not impossible) to establish and maintain an account without the help of a representative in China, which can pose a big hurdle. Although some universities use partnerships that would allow a way around this limitation, it appears others have simply turned their focus in a different direction for now.

1Artificial Intelligence Will Be Huge

Our Prediction from January:

For years popular fiction has portrayed AI (Artificial Intelligence) as heartless killing machines. Think Blade Runner, The Matrix, The Terminator and Joshua from War Games. The future may hold a terrifying world of killer robots bent on our destruction, but for now- we’re safe. The current version of AI is happily checking your credit score for automated loan approvals, it’s building your personalized social media feed and helping your insurance company become more accurate in their underwriting. AI implementation will continue to grow at a fast pace and we’re going to see much of the growth in online customer service, autonomous vehicles and deep neural networks that can process medical research data more thoroughly than any human could. Although it might be a few years before popular AI movie scenarios become a reality, in 2018 we will definitely see AI as a major focal point in everyday life.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

In 2018 we saw Google made profound strides in Artificial Intelligence technology; most notably, the jaw-dropping conversation between Google’s Assistant and a human over the scheduling of a hair appointment during the 2018 Google I/O festival. Although Google’s Assistant was a crowd-pleaser, throughout the year Artificial Intelligence did not make any other large headlines. 2018 wasn’t Artificial Intelligence’s big year but that year isn’t far off.

 

 

 

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