Envisage International Partnered with School the World to Increase Accessibility of Education in Guatemala

Envisage International Partnered with School the World to Increase Accessibility of Education in GuatemalaOn March 4th eight volunteers from Envisage International will head to Guatemala to build a school and playground in the small community of Choacaman Patzalam. Envisage has partnered with IvyWise, the world’s leading educational consultancy, and Flywire, the premier provider of international payment, on this initiative through School the World (STW). There will be 21 total volunteers that head to Guatemala for one week to construct a school and playground in one of the country’s poorest communities.

“Together our three companies will fund and build a school in Guatemala, but School the World is an incredible organization that does so much more than just build schools.” says Keith Clausen, President of Envisage International. “By enlisting community and government support, training teachers and parents, building playgrounds and libraries and committing to each of their communities for at least 5 years, the School the World model ensures that education in those communities will be forever changed.”

School the World is a nonprofit organization with the goal to provide access for quality education to those living in the rural villages of Central America. STW first broke ground in Guatemala in 2009 and has since built 53 schools and 30 playgrounds, trained more than 255 teachers and enrolled nearly 6,400 students in Honduras and Guatemala combined.

Get Involved

Each volunteer has committed to fund-raising half of the cost of their participation, with the companies contributing the other half plus the necessary fixed amount to cover the hard costs of school construction. The overall fundraising goal is $105,000. If you would like to read more on how Envisage International partnered with School the World to increase accessibility of education in Guatemala, or to help support our initiative you can learn more on our fundraising page.

You can also follow the adventures of the 2018 EIC Guatemala team using the hashtags #EICSchoolTheWorld2018 and #EnviFlyWiseSTW.

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The Impact of Betsy DeVos on the For-Profit Education Sector

We all know that we now have a for-profit friendly administration, led by Betsy DeVos.  She has hired staff and attorneys that come from inside the for-profit industry.  Now her focus seems to be on changing the borrower defense rule and the gainful employment rule.  Both of these were implemented to protect students.  So what impact does Betsy DeVos have on the for-profit education sector?

The borrower defense rule was established to protect student loan borrowers by allowing them a path to cancel student loan debt if they were defrauded.  Now team DeVos is looking at ways to change that rule.  One proposal is to change the language to shift the burden of proof to the students.  Those in favor of students want to keep the “preponderance of evidence” language.  Those in the for-profit industry want it changed to “clear and convincing,” making students show proof they were defrauded.

Another proposed change that could have an impact on students that were defrauded by the likes of Corinthian and ITT Tech and that was recently announced by team DeVos, is that they might not wipe out all debt that students incurred at these schools.  Instead, they would look at the income of the former student vs the degree earned.  From that and some sort of formula they’ve created, they would determine how much debt would be forgiven. What’s the reason for the change from the previous administration? Betsy is concerned that students will defraud the institutions that defrauded them.

“No fraud is acceptable, and students deserve relief if the school they attended acted dishonestly,” DeVos said in a statement. “This improved process will allow claims to be adjudicated quickly and harmed students to be treated fairly. It also protects taxpayers from being forced to shoulder massive costs that may be unjustified.”

The gainful employment rule, established by the previous administration, measured debt to income ratios of students and put in place checks and balances for institutions. They gave programs a “pass” or “fail” grade. DeVos is now proposing they change the rule to give an “acceptable” grade to those within a certain debt to income ratio. Those that were deemed as failing now would have a “low-performing” grade.  In addition, those that were “low-performing” would only have to disclose that rating to students.

It will certainly be interesting to sit back and watch what impact Betsy Devos will have on the for-profit education sector in the upcoming year.  The changes to the borrower defense rule and the gainful employment rule could be just the tip of the iceberg.  She is certainly putting the interest of institutions first over those of the students.

 

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Top 10 International Education Predictions for 2018

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

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.

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

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.

1Continued Turmoil and Adaptation Within The For-Profit Sector

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.

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

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.

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

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.

1International US High School Enrollments will Continue to Thrive

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.

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

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.

1Touchless Interfaces Make a Big Leap Forward

“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.

1More Schools Start to Use Mobile Messaging Apps

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.

1Artificial Intelligence Will Be Huge

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.

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2017 Predictions and Outcomes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to revisit our 2017 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!

1 ACA Is Here To Stay (in substance, at least)

Our Prediction from January:

With the relentless drumbeat from President-Elect Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act throughout our election season, and the newly-formed Republican-controlled Congress already putting in place a plan to repeal the ACA, it could seem a foregone conclusion that the ACA will be swiftly repealed as promised. But with 20 million Americans newly covered by insurance, it will be incredibly difficult to pull that coverage back, and Trump and Congress have not indicated any desire to do so. In addition, Trump has commented that he likes the “popular” pieces of the ACA – allowing dependents to stay on their parents plan to age 26, and covering pre-existing conditions. The problem is, once you offer blanket pre-existing condition coverage to everyone, the unpopular piece of the ACA – the individual mandate that requires everyone have coverage – becomes necessary from an insurance underwriting perspective. Insurance can’t work if people can just choose to buy coverage once they become sick or injured, you need to share that risk with healthy people as well.

There will be a loud “repeal” effort, and a quieter and much slower “replace” effort, and the ACA will go away in name. But the pain of actually taking coverage from people and the difficulty and cost of keeping pre-existing condition coverage without the individual mandate means that the healthcare landscape in the USA has changed forever. Some pieces will change as the new leadership tries to make it look different – but a whole lot of it will still look the same, a year from now.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

When we reviewed this prediction in September, after the failure of multiple efforts over the summer to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also called the ACA or Obamacare), we smugly assumed we’d have a green check on this one. But wait! Even though all direct efforts to repeal the ACA have failed, as we discussed in our September update, the Republican tax reform proposal takes a major shot at the ACA. The Senate version of the tax bill includes a provision repealing the mandate that all US Citizens, Permanent Residents and Resident Aliens buy ACA insurance, with predictions that this change would reduce ACA enrollment by 13 million. Although the vast majority of international students are Non-Resident Aliens and therefore exempt from the ACA anyway, repealing the individual mandate means that even long-term international students and scholars (generally, those in the US for over 5 ½ years) would have no requirement to have ACA insurance either. We’ll have to see what the final bill includes, but at this point, the signals are that the individual mandate may very well disappear – a major change that will drive up premiums for those remaining on ACA plans, as young and healthy people skip insurance leaving older and sicker people on the plans.

1For-Profit School’s Revenue and Enrollment Will Continue to Decline

Our Prediction from January:

Things are looking up for the embattled for-profit education sector. According to Senator John McCain: “Undoing the Obama Administration’s eight-year war on for profit colleges through onerous rule making and regulatory actions should be a priority for the next Administration and Congress.” So it is no coincidence that stock prices for the two largest for-profits, Apollo Education (up 14%) and Devry (up 33%) have gone up since November 8th. However, it will take a bit more before the sector starts to see the new administration’s policies having a positive effect on enrollments and revenue, and 2017 will not bring the major rebound investors are apparently anticipating. What factors will hold it back?

    • Ongoing investigations and lawsuits – Laureate Education is under investigation for deceptive advertising practices in their home state of Minnesota, and they’re subject to a class action lawsuit filed in Ohio against them. Devry just settled a $100 million suit filed by the FTC. It is not clear if others will file suits or if other investigations will begin in 2017.
    • Dismantling of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools – The leading accrediting agency for the for-profit sector was recently dismantled and lost an appeal in December. Schools now have 18 months to find a new accreditation. In the meantime, they must let all their students know about the loss of the accreditation. Most will find new accreditation, but some will not and will not survive. And telling students that their school has lost its accrediting body can’t help enrollment.
    • Eliminating Mandatory Arbitration – In July 2017 the new arbitration rules go into effect, essentially removing the mandatory arbitration rules used by many for-profit schools. This will make it easier for students to sue their school if they feel mislead. Provided the new administration can’t or doesn’t undo this change, it could open the door for more suits against the sector.
    • Reputation – The for-profit sector has taken a reputational blow because of the attention from the closings if ITT Tech and Corinthian as well as the smaller for-profits that have closed their doors due to the enhanced regulations. It will take some time for the industry to repair its reputation and for the industry to cleanse itself.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Our prediction was spot on. 2017 brought more closures to small for-profit schools that could not handle the loss of accreditation by the dismantling of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Big players were not exempt either. We saw groups like Apollo, which owns University of Phoenix and recently moved to a non-profit model, announce it was closing 20 University of Phoenix locations. And despite DeVry stock prices increasing in the beginning of the year, Adtalem (owner of Devry) announced last week it was offloading Devry and the Keller School of Management to a small non-profit school with less than 1,000 students (off the record, we predict that won’t come to fruition). Devry’s enrollment is down 21.4% with revenue across Adtalem down a total of 6.4% in the first fiscal quarter of 2018 (ending September 30, 2017).

1No Drastic Changes in Store for the J1 Visa Program

Our Prediction from January:

Rhetoric during the Presidential campaign certainly did not show much support for J1 programs, and in some cases even targeted them. While there is discontent and uneasiness from many corners of the cultural exchange world stemming from this attitude of the new Administration in the US, in the short to medium term there will be very little impact to the programs and how they are run. First, to make any widescale changes to the J1 visa programs would take time – potentially up to 1 or 2 years, maybe even 3, to push any changes through. Second, the appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State could bode well for how the programs will be viewed moving forward. While he was CEO of ExxonMobil, the company was an active supporter of international exchanges and is even a State Department designated sponsor, so he likely knows the value these programs bring. While this gives us some insight, we will know more as he makes appointments to key staff positions.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Depending on how you look at this, you can either say this prediction was wildly off the mark, or you could say it was very accurate. 2017 did not see any major changes to the J1 program, but it has been a very turbulent year behind the scenes. President Trump’s Buy America, Hire America (BAHA) executive order has engulfed the J1 Cultural Exchange programs, and there has been widespread talk that this initiative could see the elimination or reduction of some of the leading J1 programs such as Au Pair, Work and Travel, Trainee and Interns. The industry has rallied around, and while the initial threat seems to have subsided, it looks like it will continue to be a rocky road during the Trump Presidency for the J1 Programs. But still, our prediction was narrowly focused on 2017, so we will take the win.

1Canada Benefits at the Expense of the US

Our Prediction from January:

For economic and political reasons, Canada will continue to grow its international student population rapidly, while growth in the US will stagnate, as students from China, India and other countries choose Canada over the US.

    • The latest Open Doors Report reflects the drying up of scholarship and state sponsorship, as the percentage of students in the US funding their own education jumped from 63% to 67%.
    • The strengthening dollar has made it much more expensive to study in the US than it was one, two or five years ago. Although Canada’s currency has also strengthened against some currencies, it has not been to the same level as in the US, making it more affordable.
    • The uncertain political climate and xenophobic messaging from President-Elect Trump will start to deter students from studying in the US, and more students will consider other destinations, with Canada looking as a natural alternative and comparatively much more welcoming.
    • The overwhelming top sending countries to the US are also the primary sending countries to Canada, and with a more welcoming atmosphere cheaper currency, and a cohesive national strategy to grow enrollment, Canada will see large gains this year in their international enrollments, including many students that also considered (and rejected) the US.
    • Canada has been relaxing it’s work and citizenship restrictions for international students, now making it a more favorable choice when comparing it to the US. Not only can international students work off-campus immediately without a work permit, but new legislation has been introduced that would make it easier for international students to gain citizenship upon completing their degrees. With the option to work and possibility of gaining citizenship upon completing their degree, Canada is going to be a no-brainer for many international students who are looking beyond their degrees.
    • Finally, US students are applying to Canadian schools in droves, which will help drive up Canada’s numbers. For instance, according to recent news reports, the University of Calgary has received 130 percent more US applicants than last year, and University of Toronto 70 percent more.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We nailed this one, though we’re a little fuzzy on the numbers. Last month, Universities in Canada reported a 10.7% increase in the number of international students studying in Canada, bringing the total to 192,000. And IRCC, Canada’s immigration arm, reported a 22% increase in the number of international students entering Canada, leading to an 18% increase in the total number of international students in Canada (to 415,000). Regardless of how you sort out the numbers, Canada has enjoyed a huge spike in applications, as we detailed in our blog post in August, and now in actual students. Meanwhile, the US has seen a 3% drop in the number of new international students – nothing to be alarmist about, but certainly the end of the automatic yearly increase.

1Facebook Live Will Gain Popularity Among Educational Institutions and Businesses

Our Prediction from January:

We all know that video marketing is huge. However, we also know there’s a lot of work around creating a video and making sure it gets out into the world for people to see. Facebook Live allows you to incorporate videos into your marketing plan without having to allot time for editing (take or leave this as a positive) and allows them to be seen by an audience immediately. Additionally, Facebook Live lets you see how many viewers are watching, along with the names of the viewers and their comments. With all of the recent advertisement around Facebook Live it’s easy to see that there’s a large plan in place for this new media and it’s hard to ignore. Do we think all the extra marketing dollars behind Facebook Live will pay off? Yes.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

This one was half right. Over the past year Facebook Live has grown by more than 4x, according to Facebook, and although certain educational businesses and select colleges and universities have jumped on the Facebook Live bandwagon, the international education world still hasn’t fully embraced it. While Facebook Live was a valuable platform to connect with students from around the world in certain instances this past year, for example during International Education Week, the booming utilization of Facebook Live that we expected to see across the board at educational institutions was not quite there. There is no doubt that videos are still a necessity in any marketing plan and that Facebook Live will stick around for awhile, but in 2017 it just wasn’t in the cards.

1ESL Programs Increase Marketing and Recruiting Dramatically

Our Prediction from January:

2016 was not kind to the English as a second language market in the US. In a fall 2016 flash survey conducted by EnglishUSA, approximately 75% of those surveyed saw a decrease in fall enrollments, 8% remained flat and 15% saw an increase. This is up significantly from 2015 when 45% saw a decrease.

In another survey on the use of agents, 74% of those that responded use agents to help them recruit. The majority of those reported less than 10% of students were the result of using agents.

With the significant decline in enrollments and much uncertainty in the industry, those that want to reverse the trend will rely more heavily on non-traditional and traditional recruiting methods like agents, online marketing as well as recruiting fairs. To survive and grow, ESL programs will have to work hard to reach new students. Making the case: two of the respondents in the EnglishUSA survey whose Fall enrollments had grown were asked how they had grown their business; the first credited the increase to “improved web site and new agents” and the second to “aggressive promotions & marketing campaigns.”

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

We missed this one. We know that the ESL world has continued to see declines in enrollment in 2017, but our prediction on ESL programs increasing their marketing and recruiting dramatically wasn’t quite right. Instead, we saw more cuts in the industry and some programs even shutting their doors all together.

As we mentioned in our blog in November, EnglishUSA released survey results showing that 70% of member institutions saw a decrease in enrollment from fall 2016 to fall 2017. Of those schools showing declines, 85% had a sizable decrease (between 11-50%). Only 29% of those surveyed stayed flat or grew.

The 29% that saw an increase credited their success to having lower cost options, forming strategic partnerships with bridge/pathway programs or simply not relying on students from Saudi Arabia. There was no mention of an increased focus on marketing and recruiting, and without any other strong evidence we admit defeat on this one.

1Despite Efforts, Fake News Will Still be Widespread on Facebook

Our Prediction from January:

Coming across spam and clickbait articles disguised as news on Facebook has become a normal occurrence for users. However, since sixty-six percent of Facebook users get news on site, this normality has recently become a pressing issue. In November, Mark Zuckerberg made a statement that Facebook takes this issue seriously and they’ve been working to resolve it. However, he also stated that “We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.” This statement along with the complexity involved in screening content lead us to believe that although strides will be made in 2017, clickbait, spam and scams on Facebook are not yet a thing of the past.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

If you’ve been on Facebook throughout the year or have searched “Fake News on Facebook in 2017” you should already know the answer to this one. Despite a massive, ongoing effort on Facebook’s part to eradicate fake news it’s still an issue that keeps popping up in news feeds around the world. Although Facebook has stated they do not want to be the “arbiter of truth,” a few of the steps taken to stop the spread of fake news this past year include increasing the number of fact checkers, blocking ads from pages that repeatedly share fake news, and implementing a “related articles” feature. However, despite these efforts to rid Facebook of fake news this year it has continued to crawl its way through the social platform. Hopefully in 2018 we will continue to see these efforts ramped up and a halt to the fake news epidemic.

1Study Abroad Growth Continues to Slow, More Students Studying In Latin America and Asia

Our Prediction from January:

Study abroad grew only 2.9% last year, and we think that growth will be even slower this year and that the destination makeup will change. With terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East, Brexit in the UK, Western Europe elections shifting away from open borders, and a strong dollar, we think that there will be a shift where more students will consider Asia and Latin America as prime destinations, and we’ll see declines in students choosing Europe.

With a third of all US study abroad students studying in the UK, France and Spain, a large dip in travel to Europe will certainly impact the growth overall. And the question is, will this deter students to study abroad, or will they choose a different destination? In our estimation, we think that while this will deter some families, a strong dollar might help to counteract this and continue to entice others – but to new corners of the world that they may never have considered before.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

There’s no real way to take this prediction as a winner, and we’ve tried. The overall number of US students studying abroad rose 3.8% to 325,339, increasing at a faster rate than last year when it notched in at 2.9%. In fact, other than the 5.2% growth we saw from the 2012/13 to 2013/14 academic years, this year’s increase was the biggest in the last six years.

The overall number of students studying in Asia and Latin America did grow, but only by 1.3% and 2.1%, respectively. We didn’t predict the huge increase in Sub-Saharan Africa and a big decrease from the Middle East and North Africa, and we didn’t call out a big increase in Cuba, driving Caribbean numbers way up, or the big increase in students going to Australia/New Zealand.

And to top it off, we missed the 36% spike in the number of students studying in Antarctica – from 64 to 87!

1The Rise of Software Containers

Our Prediction from January:

Containerization software has been around for some time, but 2017 will be the year it becomes a standard tool in a software developer’s toolbox. With containerization, the idea is to virtualize and distribute applications, running multiple isolated systems know as containers, on a single host – making it much easier to develop, maintain and scale software applications.

In the world of containerization software, Docker has become a household name. Docker is an open source project that uses containers to wrap a piece of software in a completely isolated environment. This guarantees that the software will always run the same and you can dynamically change your application, regardless of its host environment. Build, ship, run.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

Containers were huge this year and they don’t appear to be slowing down at all. 2017 saw widespread adoption of containers by Google, Amazon, Microsoft IBM and many other large infrastructure companies. Containers, clusters and swarms are here to stay and are going to be a major force in the coming years. They offer scalability and flexibility that traditional bare-metal or VM servers can’t touch and as the ecosystem of tools and utilities grow, the adoption rate will only accelerate.

 

1Internet of Things (IoT) Will Become Mainstream

Our Prediction from January:

2017 will mark the real start of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. From something as simple as turning your living room lights on and off to controlling the traffic patterns of an entire city, the age of connected devices is here. Chances are in 2017 that you’ll be using a thermostat, a security camera or some other IoT device that you control with a phone or tablet. Gartner puts the current number of IoT devices at around 6 billion, but predicts that by 2020, we could have up to 20 billion devices connected to the internet in one way or another.

1 Evaluation of Prediction:

This is on the mark. IoT is now everywhere: your connected refrigerator will remind you when the milk is about to spoil, Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and other digital tools control your lights, appliances and home entertainment systems, your car can be outfitted with its own wifi and will even email you when the oil needs to be changed- and this is just the beginning. Combining the IoT with emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the catalyst for massive growth in smart, connected things.

 

 

 

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English as a Second Language Programs Feeling the Pain

For the first time in many years the US international education sector is seeing its first signs of slowed growth, English as a Second Language programs are feeling the pain and seeing drastic drops in the number of students enrolling in their programs. EnglishUSA recently released the findings from a flash survey of their member institutions.  In the survey, 70% saw a decrease in enrollment from fall of 2016 to fall of 2017 and of those, 85% saw a decrease between 11-50%. Only 29% of those surveyed are either remaining flat or seeing an increase in enrollment.

Why are they seeing these drastic drops in enrollments?

  • Scholarships and Government Programs:  Many schools that traditionally counted on government funded programs, like Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Kuwait are seeing a reduction in the number of scholarships granted.
  • US Political Climate:  The easiest place to turn to cast the blame is the current political climate in the United States.   There is a lot of rhetoric of late that has to do with how welcoming the US will be to international people and students both now and in the future.  Many students are either being denied a Visa, or having the perception that they will not obtain one, so why bother even trying. Why come to the US with so many other options?
  • Competition:  There are a lot of ESL options in the US. In addition, there are many in-country options or other more “friendly” places to learn English for international students. Canada continues to become one of those more popular options.
  • Bridge/Pathway Programs:  This is a growing trend where students can learn English while earning credits towards their first year. In addition to the language, these programs are known to nurture the students and help them acclimate to a US education in ways that traditional short term ESL programs cannot (further competition).
  • Global Economy: The cost to study in the US is expensive and many simply cannot afford it.

What are the 29% that are not moving in the wrong direction doing? They are marketing themselves and getting their names out there. As an example, we are seeing online fairs that are dedicated to ESL programs. EnglishUSA was just recently promoting one and ESLdirectory.com partnered up with CollegeWeekLive last year to offer one as well.  They are also looking for Agent relationships. As an observer and ICEF attendee, we are noticing an increase in ESL schools and programs that are attending the ICEF North American fair, many for the first time.

Revisiting the EnglishUSA survey, according to one survey respondent, “ Pathway programs or similar models seem to be becoming a necessity to remain competitive.” Another stated, “We are a low-priced option, and price seems to be key in student decision-making at this time.”

While English as a second language programs are feeling the pain, many are getting smarter in the partnerships they form and the way in which they are marketing themselves.  Anytime you have a lot of competition and the pool of prospective students is shrinking, it is important to show what you do that is better and different from everyone else.  What are you doing to set your ESL program apart?

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Healthcare Reform Update, for International Students and Scholars

Following the manic scramble by the House and Senate, urged on by President Trump, to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (also called the ACA or Obamacare), and the failure of those efforts it’s now a good time to reflect on what has and hasn’t been done, the potential future of Obamacare, and any possible impact on international students.  If you want a spoiler, the answer is that as far as international students and scholars go, just like the majority of Americans, very little is likely to change.

Ever since its passage in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (also called the ACA or Obamacare) has been the favorite political punching bag of Republicans.  Even after around 20 million people are newly insured as a result of the ACA, throughout the 2016 Presidential Campaign repealing Obamacare was a top priority of now-President Trump, driven by the desperate partisan desire to eliminate any landmark legislation associated with President Obama.  The complexity of such a task was lost in the campaign rhetoric though, particularly as so many voters now rely on the ACA for their health coverage.  Even President Trump wanted to keep the “popular” parts of the ACA – mainly ensuring pre-existing condition coverage for everyone and extending coverage to those who otherwise cannot afford it – while eliminating the “unpopular” parts – mainly the mandate that requires every US citizen, permanent resident or resident alien to purchase ACA qualifying coverage.  The problem in such an approach is obvious to those with insurance experience.

In order to provide the popular parts – pre-existing condition coverage and affordability – you absolutely need the unpopular part – the individual mandate. In order to keep stabilized rates, you need everyone in the system, young and old, healthy and sick, rich and poor – so that the costs of providing care to all Americans is spread amongst all Americans.  If you remove the mandate, young and healthy people will opt out of coverage, leaving an insurance plan in a death spiral, as it incurs more and more claims, gets more expensive, pushing more healthy people out. Insurance companies, for one, will not go along with any plan to eliminate the mandate while still providing comprehensive coverage.

Congressional Republicans tried several times this summer to come up with something that could work, to no avail. There was not really a substantive policy discussion – for the most part, Republicans are boxed in by their promise to repeal Obamacare, when really what it needs is some bi-partisan fixing.  The good news is, that seems to be what’s happening now.  There are on-going bi-partisan (yes that means Democrats and Republicans working together!) efforts to ensure stability in state health insurance markets and keep access affordable.  No one thinks the ACA is perfect, but when repealing it is not an option, it’s time for our Congressional leaders to work together and fix the parts that need it.

Our analysis from several years ago still applies, the majority of international students are exempt from the ACA, and only those who have become “resident aliens” by remaining in the US for over 5 years need concern themselves with the ACA.  With a big legislative agenda that will need a lot of focus, and after this summer’s failures, repealing the ACA is unlikely to happen.

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Canada’s Growing International Student Boom

It is easy to sit here and say that last November’s election and current US international demeanor and policies are the cause of Canada’s growing international student boom. To be fair, that is probably true to some extent.  It is clearly helping with the sudden spike in interest in Canada.  However, let’s not discount the hard work that is fueling that growth.  In fact, the international student enrollment numbers have been steadily rising since around 2008.  Only now are they seeing a spike in those numbers.

Increase in International Students in Canada

According to BBC, The University of Toronto has seen a 20% increase in total international student enrollments.  They also saw a 57% spike in applications from countries like India.  Other schools like McMaster University in Ontario are seeing a 33% increase in fall enrollments.  Wilfrid Laurier University, also in Ontario, are  seeing a 32% increase over last year.  All of these schools are seeing a spike due to Canada’s growing international student boom.

Besides November’s election and the current US international demeanor here are other factors contributing to Canada’s growing international student boom:

  • A low cost of living – From EduCanada’s website, “the cost of living and tuition fees for international students are generally lower than in other countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.”
  • It maintains a safe image and non discriminatory society – “respect for human rights, equality, and a stable and peaceful society.”
  • The ability to work while in school and after graduation.
  • Easier to immigrate to Canada after studying and working there.

These are almost the opposite of the US market where cost can certainly be a concern especially in  larger cities.  In addition students safety is also a real concern for parents.  Then if you add on top of that new policies and rhetoric about immigration it creates the perfect storm to Canada’s benefit.  Canada also has lax work rules for international students.  This allows international students to start work out of the gate.  This is unlike the US where most international students must wait a year until they are eligible  to work.  Canada also makes it much easier for international students that earn a degree and are employable an easier path to permanent  residence.

Canada has steadily grown their international student population since 2008.  The growth comes from a mix of individual schools marketing themselves as well as associations like EduCanada who have a focus on positioning Canada as an option for international education.  They also have a consistent marketing message. Another such group, Global Affairs Canada, states in their International Education Strategy section that, “We can make Canada a world leader in international education and ensure our future prosperity.”

Clearly Canada’s growing international student boom comes at the expense of US and other country’s policies.  Canadian schools have done a great job positioning themselves, marketing themselves and capitalizing on our politics to set themselves up for the growth they are seeing.  Congrats to our neighbors to the north.  Well played, Canada. Well Played.

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The Rise of Containerization Software

The Rise of Containerization SoftwareContainerization is the new buzzword in the software industry, from articles about how Google has moved all their applications to containers, to Microsoft partnering with Docker, the world’s leading software container platform. Although a buzzword, containerization is a key concept that should be on the top of every software developers mind.

Put simply, a container is an isolated environment that runs on a host and consists of an entire application, all its dependencies, libraries and other binaries. These self-contained systems are small, efficient, and solve a whole host of issues when moving and deploying applications in a different environment and machine. Containers may sound a lot like virtual machines, but because a container shares the host operating system’s kernel, they only take up a faction of the memory a virtual machine would and can boot up in just a few seconds.

The size and speed are not the only benefits of using containers, applications become truly portable with containers. This means that developers can focus on writing code without worrying about the system on which their code runs. Containers also offer greater modularity and make it easy to run multiple versions or instances of the same program and/or service. These features are great for setting up local development environment when you lack the local resources to run multiple or large scale virtual machines.

Containerization isn’t a new concept. The idea dates back to as early as 1979 when the UNIX operating system introduces chroot, which could be used to create a separate virtualized copy of the host system. In 2008 LXC, LinuX Containers, was introduced and was the first containerization model that resembles current container software. The most widely used containerization software, Docker, was released as an open-source project in 2013 and built on top of the previous technology, LXC. It has become the standard for modern container software.

With the rapid growth of containers, the ecosystem of containerization technology has rapidly grown. Google has become a big player in the container world with its Kubernetes platform. Microsoft has partnered with Docker to bring Docker containers to their windows operating system. If you haven’t already modernized your application infrastructure with containers, now is the time. The future of containers is looking bigger and brighter.

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State of the Union in the For-Profit Industry

The new administration is in their first 100 days.  So, what is the State of the Union in the for-profit industry? Things are looking up for the beleaguered for-profit industry in 2017.  That is at least what Wall Street thinks. On November 9th, 2016, the day after Trump was elected, stock prices started immediately heading north. Since the election, Strayer University has seen a 35% increase, Grand Canyon University a 34% increase, Devry a whopping 46% increase, and Laureate University has gone public. What else has happened in the industry since then that is having an impact on the State of the Union for the for-profit industry?

Impacts on the Industry:

  • The dismantling of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools seems to be a reality. They lost their latest appeal late last month. Unless someone steps in like DeVos, their fate is sealed. Schools have 18 months to find a replacement if possible and the clock is ticking. Dennis Griffith whose family has owned Trumbull Business College in Ohio for 40+ years said, “ACICS’s inability to no longer accredit higher education institutions forced us into seeking a new accreditor and that process has created a substantial financial and administrative burden that, as a small college, we just cannot bear.” They are shutting their doors in the coming months and many others will suffer the same fate.
  • Last Monday, The Department of Education took the first step to protect the for-profit industry.  They extended the deadline and are allowing schools more time to appeal releasing data related to the Gainful Employment Rule. The rule is in place to keep graduate rates and debt related to college education in check. The State Department says it is “to allow the department to further review the Gainful Employment regulations and their implementation.” Most believe it is the first step in doing away with it all together.

The good news for the State of the Union in the for-profit industry is that clearly those that are investing in the for-profit sector see it is on an upward trajectory. This is the first time since 2008. If Gainful Employment regulations are either dismantled or the standards lowered, this will also be a big win for the colleges and universities. The end of ACICS, will have a short term negative impact.  However, for those that have alternative accreditation in place or a plan to replace, it will be just fine. This includes all or most of the biggest players in the industry.

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Fake News on Facebook in the New Year

Fake News on Facebook in the New YearWe ended 2016 with fake news on Facebook as a common occurrence. We have all seen it, and we might have even accidentally clicked on it from time to time. However, 2016 is long gone and 2017 brings with it questions on what type of impact these fake news articles are having and what the solution to end them will be.

If you’re not familiar with the recent fake news hoaxes on Facebook, we’ll catch you up. In the past, fake news articles, often known as click-bait, were more of a hassle than harm. However, the issue of fake news articles and hoaxes has really come to the forefront after the US presidential elections.

Many have stated that the elections were swayed in Donald Trump’s favor due to fake new articles appearing on Facebook. During the final three months of the US elections fake news articles had more engagement on Facebook than articles from major news outlet like the New York Times and Washington Post, according to data analysis by BuzzFeed News. They estimated that nearly 8.7 million shares, reactions and comments were made on fake news articles compared to approximately 7.4 million shares, reaction and comments on major news outlet articles.

A few top ranking fake election stories include:

  • “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement”
  • “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS… Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL! Breaking News”
  • “IT’S OVER: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked & It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined”

However, a Facebook spokesman told BuzzFeed News that top stories do not reflect the overall engagement on the platform.

“There is a long tail of stories on Facebook,” the spokesman said. “It may seem like the top stories get a lot of traction, but they represent a tiny fraction of the total.”

The BuzzFeed News study surfaced after Facebook’s Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg stated on November 12 that “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”

Two days after the BuzzFeed News study was released Mark Zuckerberg released further information on this topic.

“The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously.” Zuckerberg stated “Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.”

In efforts to rid Facebook of fake news and hoaxes, as of December, Facebook has stated they’re working on these four key areas:

  • Easier reporting: Allowing users to report a hoax will help Facebook detect fake news articles. They’re currently testing several ways to make this process as easy as possible.
  • Flagging stories as disputed: Facebook has started to work with third-party fact checking organizations. If these organizations find articles to be fake, the article will be flagged to readers as disputed.
  • Informed sharing: They’re currently testing the link between people who read an article without re-sharing it and misleading information within that article.
  • Disrupting financial incentives for spammers: When it comes down to it, spammers with financial motives stand behind fake news on Facebook. Facebook’s answer to this is the following: “On the buying side we’ve eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.”

With this plan in place, hopefully we can count on seeing less fake news on Facebook in the new year and count on seeing more reliable articles from this social media platform.

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