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Testimony before Congressional Committees: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

For Release on Delivery:
Expected at 9:30 a.m. EDT/EST: 
Thursday, June 19, 2008: 

Higher Education: 

United States' and Other Countries' Strategies for Attracting and 
Funding International Students: 

Statement of George A. Scott, Director: 
Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: 

GAO-08-878T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-08-878T, a testimony before Congressional Committees. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

In the years following September, 11, 2001, the United States 
experienced its first drop in the number of international students 
coming to the United States in over 30 years. The United States 
tightened its immigration policy during this time, which may have made 
it more difficult for foreign nationals, including international 
students, to apply for a visa and, subsequently may have fueled the 
perception that the United States is unwelcoming. While enrollment 
numbers have started to rebound, they have not returned to pre-
September 11 levels. 

This testimony is based on ongoing and published GAO work. It includes 
themes from a June 2007 testimony on challenges in attracting 
international students. It also includes ongoing work to review other 
countriesí efforts to attract and fund international students. 

What GAO Found: 

The U.S. federal government seeks to improve global attitudes towards 
America through a variety of diplomatic means, including funding study 
for international students inside the United States. Such study, which 
is funded primarily through the U.S. Department of State (State), is 
aimed at fostering a sense of common interests and values between 
Americans and people throughout the world. However, this funding is one 
component of a larger effort to attract international students, with 
funding for the vast majority of students coming primarily from sources 
other than the federal government. GAO identified the following about 
the efforts of the U.S. Department of State and other countries we are 
reviewing as part of ongoing work with respect to funding study for 
international students: 

* State funds a small number of programs having a public diplomacy 
focus, which bring a small number of international students to the 
United States for undergraduate study. Specifically, State funded eight 
programs for 321 undergraduate students in fiscal year 2007. Combined 
funding for these programs totaled approximately $11.7 million. These 
programs allow undergraduate students the opportunity to study in both 
2-year and 4-year institutions, with some leading to a degree. While 
Stateís programs target students from all regions in the world, 
participants typically come from only a few countries in Europe and 
South/Central Asia. 

* As part of our ongoing work, GAO has been reviewing other countriesí 
governmentsí efforts to attract and fund international students. 
International comparative analysis is complicated by different 
countriesí national objectives and funding structures. The countries we 
are reviewing employ various strategies to attract diverse 
international student populations but also fund and administer programs 
in different ways. We will be learning more about these other 
countriesí efforts as we continue our work. We expect to issue a report 
on our findings in early 2009. 

What GAO Recommends: 

This testimony does not contain recommendations. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-878T]. For more 
information, contact George Scott at (202) 512-5932 or ScottG@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Chairman Delahunt, Chairman Hinojosa and Members of the Subcommittees: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the federal government's 
efforts to improve global attitudes toward Americans by funding higher 
education for undergraduate international students. In the years 
following September 11, 2001, the United States experienced a slight 
drop in international student enrollment for the first time in over 30 
years. In the aftermath of September 11, the United States tightened 
its immigration policy and made it more difficult for foreign 
nationals, including international students, to apply for a visa. These 
actions may have fueled the perception that the United States is 
unwelcoming. While enrollment numbers have started to rebound, they 
have not returned to pre-September 11 levels. 

The U.S. government seeks to improve global attitudes toward America 
through a variety of diplomatic means, including funding study for 
international students inside the United States. A major goal of these 
programs is to foster a sense of common interests and values between 
Americans and people throughout the world. The United States provides 
significant funding to attract international students to the United 
States to fill critical skill gaps, particularly in the science, 
engineering, and math fields. However, our review focuses on the 
programs funded and administered by the Department of State (State) 
that have as a goal improving relationships among the United States and 
other countries. 

Mr. Chairman, you asked us to look at Department of State programs that 
support international undergraduate students studying in the United 
States. My testimony today outlines the types of international student 
programs funded by the Department of State and provides preliminary 
information about the types of efforts other countries' governments 
have in place to attract international students. My remarks are drawn 
from previous GAO work on global competitiveness and higher education, 
supplemented by ongoing work for the House Committee on Foreign 
Affairs, Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and 
Oversight. We conducted this performance audit from October 2007 to 
June 2008, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit 
to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 
We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for 
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

In summary, 

* The Department of State funds eight programs having a public 
diplomacy focus, which bring 321 international students to the United 
States for undergraduate study. These programs allow undergraduate 
students the opportunity to study in both 2-year and 4-year 
institutions, with some programs leading to a degree. While State's 
programs target students from all regions in the world, participants 
typically come from only a few countries. 

* International comparative analysis is complicated because of 
differences in countries' recruitment objectives and higher education 
funding. Specifically, countries we are examining as part of ongoing 
work employ various strategies to attract a diverse set of 
international student populations, and they fund and administer these 
programs in different ways. 

Background: 

Following the events of September 11, 2001 the total number of 
international students studying in the United States leveled off and 
even dropped slightly after 2001 (see fig. 1) . According to the 
Institute of International Education, the decline in the number of 
international students attending U.S. higher education institutions 
between 2002 and 2003 was the first drop in over 30 years. Further, the 
U.S. share of international students worldwide dropped substantially 
between 2000 and 2005 (see fig. 2). Although international student 
enrollment in the United States shows signs of rebounding, many in the 
international community continue to view the United States as 
unwelcoming. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, since 2002 
the United States' image has declined in both the Muslim world and 
among many of America's oldest allies. In the wake of September 11, the 
United States also tightened its immigration policy and made it more 
difficult for foreign nationals, including international students, to 
apply for a visa. For example, face-to-face interviews were mandated 
for most applicants, and the number of security reviews for students 
and scholars in certain science and technology fields increased. As we 
previously reported, these changes, made to help protect our nation's 
security interests, may have contributed to our declining share of 
international students and the perception that the United States was 
not a welcoming place for international students[Footnote 1]. Another 
factor that may be contributing to the decline is the financing 
structure in the United States that makes the cost of attending college 
in the United States among the most expensive in the world.[Footnote 2] 
Among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 
countries, the U.S. ranks second with respect to public university 
tuition and first with respect to private university tuition. Some OECD 
countries provide free or relatively low-cost higher education for 
undergraduates. Moreover, other countries' governments have begun to 
more aggressively market their universities to international students 
while expanding educational opportunities in their own countries to 
retain their students. Greater competition has prompted some countries 
to offer courses in English, expand their recruiting activities, and 
develop strategic plans or offices focused on attracting international 
students. 

Figure 1: Estimated Number of International Students Enrolled in U.S. 
Higher Education, 1984/1985 to 2005/2006: 

[See PDF for image] 

This figure is a line graph depicting the following data: 

Year: 1984-1985; 
Estimated number of International students: 342,113. 

Year: 1985-1986; 
Estimated number of International students: 343,777. 

Year: 1986-1987; 
Estimated number of International students: 349,609. 

Year: 1987-1988; 
Estimated number of International students: 356,187. 

Year: 1988-1989; 
Estimated number of International students: 366,354. 

Year: 1989-1990; 
Estimated number of International students: 386,851. 

Year: 1990-1991; 
Estimated number of International students: 407,529. 

Year: 1991-1992; 
Estimated number of International students: 419,585. 

Year: 1992-1993; 
Estimated number of International students: 438,618. 

Year: 1993-1994; 
Estimated number of International students: 449,749. 

Year: 1994-1995; 
Estimated number of International students: 452,635. 

Year: 1995-1996; 
Estimated number of International students: 453,787. 

Year: 1996-1997; 
Estimated number of International students: 457,984. 

Year: 1997-1998; 
Estimated number of International students: 481,280. 

Year: 1998-1999; 
Estimated number of International students: 490,933. 

Year: 1999-2000; 
Estimated number of International students: 514,723. 

Year: 2000-2001; 
Estimated number of International students: 547,867. 

Year: 2001-2002; 
Estimated number of International students: 582,996. 

Year: 2002-2003; 
Estimated number of International students: 586,323. 

Year: 2003-2004; 
Estimated number of International students: 572,509. 

Year: 2004-2005; 
Estimated number of International students: 565,039. 

Year: 2005-2006; 
Estimated number of International students: 564.766. 

Source: Institute of International Education (IIE) data. 

[End of figure] 

The U.S. government seeks to improve global attitudes toward America 
through a variety of diplomatic means, including funding education for 
international students in the United States. Many of these programs are 
administered through the Department of State's Bureau of Educational 
and Cultural Affairs and are part of the federal government's effort to 
help foster a sense of common interests and values between Americans 
and people throughout the world. One component of this strategy 
includes funding study for undergraduate international students seeking 
to study in the United States. However, this is just one component of a 
larger public diplomacy effort. For example, State also administers and 
funds student exchanges, language acquisition, and programs for high 
school students. In addition, the federal government also provides 
funding, particularly at the graduate level, to attract international 
students to fill critical skill gaps. In recent years international 
students have earned about one-third or more of all of the U.S. degrees 
at both the master's and doctoral levels in several of the science, 
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.[Footnote 3] 

While State's undergraduate programs are an important component of the 
U.S. government's public diplomacy effort to introduce international 
students to the United States, the vast majority of international 
students entering this country are not funded primarily through the 
federal government. According to the Institute of International 
Education's Open Doors 2007 report, approximately 583,000 students came 
to the United States to study during the 2006/2007 academic year and 
more than three-fifths of all international students reported their 
primary source of funding for education as coming from personal and 
family sources. Many students also received funding directly from host 
universities, while less than 1 percent of all international students 
received funding primarily from the U.S. government. Although the 
primary source of funds for the vast majority of students that enter 
the United States is not provided by the federal government, students 
funded through other sources indirectly support U.S. public diplomacy 
efforts. 

Figure 2: Estimated Percentage of All International Higher Education 
Students Enrolled in a Selection of Countries by Destination, 2000 and 
2004: 

[See PDF for image] 

This figure is a multiple vertical bar graph depicting the following 
data (percentages are extimated from the graph):  

Country: New Zealand; 
2000: 1%; 
2004: 3%. 

Country: Japan; 
2000: 4%; 
2004: 5%. 

Country: Canada; 
2000: 7%; 
2004: 6%. 

Country: Australia; 
2000: 6.5%; 
2004: 7%. 

Country: France; 
2000: 7.5%; 
2004: 9%. 

Country: Germany; 
2000: 10%; 
2004: 9.8%. 

Country: United Kingdom; 
2000: 12%; 
2004: 11%. 

Country: United States; 
2000: 26%; 
2004: 23%. 

Country: Other OECD countries[A]; 
2000: 15%; 
2004: 14.8%. 

Country: Non-OECD countries[B]:
2000: 14%; 
2004: 14.5%. 

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 
data. 

Note: Information in this graph includes only those countries for which 
both 2000 and 2004 data were available, except for Canada, for which 
the year of reference is 2002. GAO did not assess the reliability of 
the data for the percentage of students enrolled in schools outside the 
United States. Also, the definition of international students is not 
uniform across countries. 

[A] Other OECD countries include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, 
Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, 
the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, 
Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. 

[B] Non-OECD countries include Brazil, Chile, India, Malaysia, the 
Russian Federation, South Africa, and others. 

[End of figure] 

Moreover, U.S. universities have increasingly established branch 
campuses overseas, providing another means through which to introduce 
international students to U.S. culture and values. For example, 
Education City--an educational complex in Qatar--now houses branch 
campuses of six U.S. universities, allowing students to get an American-
style education without having to leave their country.[Footnote 4] 
Likewise, in the United Arab Emirates, Michigan State University has 
begun offering courses that will lead to degrees that are equivalent to 
those offered by the university in the United States. Even in countries 
where U.S. universities have little or no physical presence, students 
increasingly have access to U.S. postsecondary education through the 
Internet. 

State Funds a Small Number of Undergraduate Programs for International 
Students: 

As part of its public diplomacy efforts to fund longer-term study for 
undergraduate international students in the United States, State funded 
eight programs for 321 undergraduate students in fiscal year 2007. 
[Footnote 5] Most of these programs provided funding for a relatively 
small number of students. Specifically, 5 of the 8 programs fund 
undergraduate education for 12 or fewer students. Two of the primary 
public diplomacy programs were the Eurasia Undergraduate Exchange 
Program (UGRAD), which funded 171 students, and the Near East and South 
Asia Undergraduate Program (NESA), which funded 29 students. UGRAD, 
which has funded nearly 4,000 participants since its inception in 1992, 
offers students from Eurasia the opportunity to spend 1 academic year 
in the United States studying in a diverse range of programs. Its 
objective is to promote cultural understanding between Eurasia and the 
United States. NESA provides students with one semester to 1 academic 
year scholarships that can be used at accredited 2-and 4-year academic 
institutions in the United States. The program seeks to increase mutual 
understanding between young emerging leaders in these countries and the 
United States. A third program, the Community College Summit 
Initiative, offers students pre-academic English language training and 
one-year certificate programs at U.S. community colleges. However, its 
primary objective is to develop students' skill sets that enable them 
to participate in the economic development of their countries. 

As shown in table 1, combined funding for these programs totaled 
approximately $11.7 million and varied across these eight programs, 
ranging from $5 million for the UGRAD program to $197,600 for the U.S.- 
South Pacific Scholarship Program. On a per student basis, the average 
funding across the programs was lowest for both NESA and UGRAD--about 
$29,000 per student - and highest for the U.S.-Timor-Leste Scholarship 
program--about $100,000 per student. In general, according to State 
Department officials these programs cover a range of student expenses 
including airfare, tuition and fees, room and board, and living 
stipends. 

Table 1: Characteristics of U.S. Department of State programs in FY 
2007 that fund academic year or longer U.S. undergraduate education for 
international students[A]: 

Undergraduate Programs: Eurasia Undergraduate Exchange Program, UGRAD - 
(1 academic year); 
Number in Program: 171; 
Degree Granting? No; 
School Type: 2- or 4-year; 
Budget Allocation: $5,000,000; 
Average Per Student: $29,240; 
Region of Origin: Europe, South/Central Asia. 

Undergraduate Programs: Near East and South Asia Undergraduate 
Program - NESA - (1 academic year)[B]; 
Number in Program: 29; 
Degree Granting? No. 
School Type: 2- or 4-year; 
Budget Allocation: $849,642; 
Average Per Student: $29,298; 
Region of Origin: Near East, South/Central Asia. 

Undergraduate Programs: Fulbright Trans-Sahara Program (2 academic 
years); 
Number in Program: 12; 
Degree Granting? Yes; 
School Type: 4-year; 
Budget Allocation: $570,624; 
Average Per Student: $47,552; 
Region of Origin: Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Undergraduate Programs: Fulbright Afghanistan Undergraduate Program (2 
academic years plus pre-academic English)[C]; 
Number in Program: 9; 
Degree Granting? Yes; 
School Type: 4-year; 
Budget Allocation: $574,328; 
Average Per Student: $63,814; 
Region of Origin: South/Central Asia. 

Undergraduate Programs: U.S.-Timor Leste Scholarship Program(up to 4 
academic years); 
Number in Program: 5; 
Degree Granting? Yes; 
School Type: 2- or 4-year; 
Budget Allocation: $500,000; 
Average Per Student: $100,000; 
Region of Origin: East Asia/Pacific. 

Undergraduate Programs: U.S.- South Pacific Scholarship Program(up to 4 
academic years)[D]; 
Number in Program: 2; 
Degree Granting? Yes; 
School Type: 2- or 4-year; 
Budget Allocation: $197,600; 
Average Per Student: $98,800; 
Region of Origin: East Asia/Pacific. 

Undergraduate Programs: Cyprus-America Scholarship Program(up to 4 
academic years)[E]; 
Number in Program: 10; 
Degree Granting? Yes; 
School Type: 4-year; 
Budget Allocation: $980,000
Average Per Student: $98,000
Region of Origin: Europe. 

Undergraduate Programs: Community College Undergraduate Summit 
Initiative (1-2 academic years)[F]; 
Number in Program: 83; 
Degree Granting? No; 
School Type: 2-year; 
Budget Allocation: $3,000,000; 
Average Per Student: $36,145; 
Region of Origin: East Asia/Pacific; Sub-Saharan Africa; Near East; 
Europe; South/Central Asia; South America. 

Total Funding for Undergraduate Programs: $11,672,194; 
Total Number of Undergraduate Program Participants: 321. 

Source: Source: Department of State data. 

Notes: 

[A] A number of programs not presented here whose participants enroll 
for less than one academic year. In addition, the Community College, 
UGRAD, and NESA programs all enroll large numbers of such students. See 
the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs 
Internet page for further information. 

[B] The NESA program awards semester and academic year scholarships. 
Participant totals and funding above reflect academic year students 
only. Total program funding for both semester and academic year 
participants was $3,008,000 ($2,211,397 for 105 NEA students; $796,603 
for 41 SCA students). 

[C] The Fulbright Afghanistan Program closed after 2007. 

[D] The U.S.-South Pacific Scholarship Program awards scholarships for 
both undergraduate and masterís degree study. Participant totals and 
funding reflect undergraduate students only. Total program funding for 
both undergraduate and masterís participants was $494,000 for five 
students. 

[E] The Cyprus-America Scholarship Program is funded via ESF transfer 
from USAID. 

[F] The Community College program is a pilot program initiated in 
summer 2007. The program is projected to enroll an additional 300+ 
students in FY 2008. 

[End of table] 

The UGRAD, NESA and Community College Undergraduate Summit Initiative 
programs do not allow participants to receive a degree. 

State Programs Draw Students From a Small Number of Countries: 

Although State programs target students from all regions of the world, 
they tend to attract students from specific countries. The largest 
program in terms of both funding and enrollments--UGRAD--draws students 
only from Europe and South/Central Asia. Moreover, when looking at 
enrollment across all programs, only students from certain countries 
participated. Students from sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 
participated in only two of the eight programs. Similarly, students 
from South America participated in only one program and all of the 
students came from just one country (Brazil). In addition, relatively 
few of the students came from the Near East region (which spans 
northern Africa and the Middle East). 

Other Countries Use Various Strategies to Recruit and Retain 
International Students: 

As part of its ongoing work, GAO has been reviewing other governments' 
efforts to attract international students to their countries. We are 
analyzing countries with the largest populations of international 
students in 2005 according to OECD data. International comparative 
analysis is complicated because countries employ various strategies to 
attract diverse international student populations and also fund and 
administer programs in different ways. For example, the Prime 
Minister's Initiative 2 in the United Kingdom targets over 20 
countries, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Ghana. France has 
close ties to North Africa, where it is creating specialized education, 
notably in management, and supporting a major network of preparatory 
classes for the local and French Grandes Ecoles (Morocco, Tunisia). In 
their efforts to attract international students, EduFrance partners 
with 177 member institutions of higher learning that pool their 
experience and expertise to assist foreign students. The organization 
also has offices abroad (88 offices in 37 countries) in partnership 
with diplomatic posts, institutes and cultural centers, and French 
language schools. 

Moreover, these countries have developed different ways to fund and 
administer their programs. For example, in France many grants are made 
available through bilateral assistance programs, in which grants are 
jointly financed by France and a foreign government. New Zealand's 
International Aid and Development Agency, a nongovernmental agency, 
administers and funds both short-term and long-term awards to students 
from developing countries, while China's College Scholarship Council 
administers undergraduate programs of up to 4 years in length, which 
are available to students from various countries based on bilateral 
exchange agreements. Last year in Germany, 269 undergraduate students 
from North America participated in the Research Internships in Science 
and Engineering (RISE) program. The RISE program is supported by the 
German Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology, and by large 
industry organizations in Canada, Germany, and the United States. RISE 
is administered by the German Academic Exchange Service's (DAAD), 
Germany's national agency for the support of international academic 
cooperation. DAAD has five strategic goals, including increasing the 
appeal of Germany's higher education systems among students, academics, 
and scientists from around the world. To achieve these objectives, 
Germany has established an organizational structure to administer a 
variety of international education programs. Similarly, the European 
Commission established the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive 
Agency, in part, to implement the European Union's 5-year, 296 million 
euro[Footnote 6] Erasmus Mundus program. 

We will be learning more about these other countries efforts as part of 
our ongoing work. We expect to report on these findings in early 2009. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to 
respond to any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may 
have at this time. 

For further information regarding this testimony please contact (202) 
512-5932. Individuals making key contributions to this testimony 
include Sherri Doughty, Carlo Salerno, John Brummet, Daniel Novillo, 
Chris Lyons, Eve Weisberg, Rebecca Rose, Susannah Compton, and Alex 
Galuten. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] GAO, Higher Education: Challenges in Attracting International 
Students to the United States and Implications for Global 
Competitiveness, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-
1047T] (Washington, D.C.: June 29, 2007). 

[2] GAO, Higher Education: Tuition Continues to Rise, but Patterns Vary 
by Institution Type, Enrollment, and Educational Expenditures, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-245] (Washington, 
D.C.: Nov. 28, 2007). 

[3] GAO, Higher Education: Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, 
and Mathematics Programs and Related Trends, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-114] (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 
12, 2005). 

[4] The six American universities are Virginia Commonwealth University, 
Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon 
University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and 
Northwestern University. 

[5] The Fulbright Afghanistan Program closed after 2007. 

[6] According to the European Commission, the Erasmus Mundus budget is 
230 million euros for 5 years (2004-2008), plus 66 million euros for 
student scholarships for citizens coming from a range of specific 
countries. For more information, see [hyperlink, 
http://ec.europa.eu/education/programmes/mundus/programme/facts_en.html]
 
[End of section] 

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