Future International Student Mobility Destination: Africa
I was recently asked by a colleague to predict the home countries of future international students. I responded by predicting that in the short-term, future international students are likely to come from countries in Asia and Southeast Asia. But in the long run, they are likely to come from Africa.
I base my prediction on the following:
The African continent is the second and most populous continent on earth. More than 1.2 billion people live in Africa. The continent has 20 percent of the world’s land and 15 percent of the world’s population.
By several estimates, the African middle class has tripled over the past 16 years, from 4.6 million households in 2000 to 15 million in 2016.
A World Bank estimate lists the African economy growing at a rate of 5 percent for the past 10 years and predicts that it will grow more than any other continent over the next 5 years. Six of the world’s fastest growing economies between 2001 and 2010 were in Africa.
In the publication, “New African,” editor Baffour Ankomah writes that the majority of the world’s natural resources are in Africa. And Africa’s vast oil and mineral reserves will be a pipeline to investments in infrastructure, health and education.
Students from Africa account now for more than 1 in 10 international students. A British Council forecast predicts that 5 two of the top 10 fastest growing 18-to22 year old populations through 2025 will be in Africa and the continent’s youth population will surpass that of Asia by 2080.
70 percent of the continent’s population have cell phones, an important statistic for online learning.
Recruiting in Africa or recruiting students from Africa is not easy. I managed an enrollment office in Dakar, Senegal for 10 years and although we enrolled students from more than 40 African countries, it was difficult. Most of the standard rules for international recruiting had to be abandoned for recruiting in an “African way.” However, I believe if a school is willing to make a long-term investment in Africa, the results will be worth both the time and resources.
Election 2016 and Future International Student Recruiting
By the time you read this post, the U.S. presidential election will be nearly two weeks old. Many of you, like me, have read articles predicting the worst for the United States, a country retreating from the world stage. No one can, or should, predict what will unfold in the United States in the weeks and months ahead. There are simply too many unknowns with regard to the political, economic and social fallout of the election. To be fair we know almost nothing about specific education policies articulated by the President-elect and I cannot recall reading any policies with regard to international education.
This blog has always had an international focus. So I will limit this post to how future international student enrollment may be impacted by the election realizing that it is too soon to predict with accuracy how future international students will enroll in the United States in the years to come.
But there are a few suppositions I would like to share with you on what may (or not) influence future international student enrollment.
Perception & Reality
Polls taken of prospective international students prior to the election reveled that they overwhelmingly supported a Clinton victory over Trump. FPP EDU Media and Intead’s survey found that 60 percent of the 40,000 students polled from 118 countries would be less inclined to enroll in U.S. colleges and universities if Trump was elected. Another survey conducted by Study in the USA of 1,000 prospective international students produced similar results. Overwhelmingly the survey participants indicated they would be more likely to enroll in the U.S. if Clinton was elected.
I think it is fair to state that the perception of a Trump presidency, creating an unwelcoming environment for future international students, especially students from Mexico and Muslim countries, is valid. It is fair to suppose that visa regulations will change and prospective students from regions identified as having a “history of exporting terrorism” will have a more difficult time gaining entry into the United States. I am not making a political statement but rather sharing with you what has been stated by the President-elect. And as every marketer knows, perception becomes reality.
Future enrollment from China is another wild card. To date China has remained relatively quiet on the election results. But if trade sanctions are imposed on China, as was promoted during the campaign by the President-elect, what do you think would be the impact on future student enrollment from China?
The journalist, Ian Bremmer, in an article published in “Time” magazine, a few days after the election, wrote that the U.S. pivot to Asia is dead and China now looks, to some countries in the region, more stable than the United States. International recruiters know that applicants from Asia represent the greatest source of future international students. (Six in 10 international students in the U.S. come from eastern or southeastern Asia or the Indian subcontinent.)
The elite colleges and universities in the United States will not be affected by national events. But there are hundreds of smaller schools whose international student enrollment will shrink if the U.S. projects a protectionist image.
Many international students apply to colleges and universities in the U.S. with the intention of obtaining employment after graduation. The stability of visa programs allowing this is unclear. And this happens when other countries, notably Canada, are writing laws making it easier for international students to remain in Canada and work after graduation. The Canadian immigration ministry projects that this will increase the number of international students invited to apply for permanent residency by about a third.
There are nearly 800,000 undocumented college students attending classes in the United States. Many schools are dependent on the enrollment of these students to help meet their bottom lines. What happens to these students in the future is again an unknown.
What can this mean for future international recruitment programs?
It remains to be seen if these perceptions become reality but if I was responsible to next year’s international student enrollment, I would begin to implement a robust Plan B.
International strategic planners should discard this year’s plans and re-visit the parts of the plans that include enrollment from the Middle East, Mexico and China, Asia.
I would look for international opportunities outside “the usual suspects.” The pieces in the student mobility chess game has changed. But there are opportunities to create new international markets.
From 2004 to 2014 there was a 70% increase in student loan borrowing
In 2004 student loan debt was $364 billion. In 2013 it was $1.2 trillion
1% of all student borrowers owe more than $100,000 (more than 1 million graduates)
40% owe less than $40,000
The 2014 average student loan bill was $33,000. In 2010, the average debt was $25,250
2012 only 40% of all student borrowers were paying down their loans
17% of all loans are delinquent
The 4 main student loan programs are expected to generate $13.5 billion in profit for the federal government from 2015 to 2024
According to a report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5.8 million young people neither in school or working
The unemployment rate for Americans with less than a high school degree is 19.7%. High school graduates have a 15% unemployment rate and college graduates have a 5.2% unemployment rate
According to a report in the New York Times, 1/5 of Americans ages 20 to 35 live with their parents and 60% receive money from their parents to live
According to a report issued by Complete College America, U.S. companies plan to hire 9% more college graduates in 2014 than in 2013. So far this year there has been an 11.5% increase in job offers to graduates in education and 9.5% increase in offers made to communications majors BUT 54% of new college graduates cannot find full-time work that requires their college degree
Americans change careers, on average, 7 x in the course of their working lives
Since we are still in the first month of the New Year, I trust you will agree with me that sharing predictions for higher education in 2014 is still acceptable. I want to share with you an excellent article written by John Ebersole for Forbes. On January 13th, Mr. Ebersole wrote the following:
The author attributes the increase in public institutions’ tuition and fees over the past five years to decreased tax support. It is important to note that 75% of all students in the United States study in public colleges and universities. Cost continues to top the list of concerns for President Obama, Congress and the public.
The author believes that accreditation reform will pick up steam in 2014. Both political and policy communities believe that the current system of accreditation is one of the biggest problems facing higher education in the United States today.
After all the hype dies down about MOOCs, the big elephant in the room will be competency-based education. (I agree with the author that MOOCs are yesterday’s news.)
CBE assesses a student’s ability to apply learning already acquired rather than the attainment of new learning. Some schools in the U.S. have already initiated CBE, like Southern New Hampshire University. The Department of Education is supportive of CBD as is President Obama. Stay tuned. This could be the real game changer for higher education this year.
Both regulators and accreditors are moving away from input statistics and focusing on outcomes. Simply put: what did students learn in college and what was the return on the financial investment of federal and state governments? Add to this chorus employers who cannot find an adequate number of college graduates to fill employment vacancies.
According to an American Council on Education report two decades ago the average age of college and university presidents was 52. Today it is 61. The need to prepare new leaders in higher education clearly has arrived.
Certainly there are many other issues facing higher education today both in the United States and around the world. Many schools in the United States continue to face enrollment declines and are either unable or unwilling to pivot to new administrative structures that could help to reverse the decline. The traditional higher education silos are alive and well but this may be the year to put rigid systems to rest. One example: enrollment managers and career counselors writing strategic recruitment plans together. The time has come to anticipate new enrollment patterns and study the trends that will determine the schools that will thrive in the future and those that will not.