Remarks at a Panel Presentation to the U.S. House of Representatives Caucus on International Exchange and Study

(As prepared for delivery)

Good afternoon.  I would like to thank Representatives Pearce and Himes, co-chairs of the House International Exchange Caucus, for hosting today’s panel and for their abiding support for international exchanges. 

I would also like to thank Max Angerholzer and his colleagues from the Institute of International Education (IIE) for their partnership in implementing valuable State Department programs, including the annual Open Doors Report.

It is a privilege to share the dais today with Dr. Bhandari from IIE and with Dr. Cabrera and Dr. Pastides who are both distinguished Fulbright alumni. 

It is a pleasure to be here with you.

 

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs supports U.S. foreign policy through international exchanges which promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

Our exchange programs build enduring relationships and networks to advance U.S. national interests and foreign policy goals. 

The mandate of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is based on the 1961 Fulbright-Hays Act, which directs the Bureau to conduct exchange programs that “foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries” in order to develop “friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations.”

The role of our exchanges, including the Fulbright Program, in advancing U.S. national security and economic interests, enjoys broad bipartisan support from Congress and other stakeholders, and provides a strong return on investment. 

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has increased its exchange offerings for young Americans to build U.S. global competitiveness and national security preparedness; we also respond to rapidly emerging foreign policy challenges and opportunities, bringing exchange program capabilities to address violent extremism globally, Russian and Chinese efforts to constrain civil society and spread disinformation, trafficking in persons, and to promote entrepreneurship, to name just a few. 

Exchanges assert U.S. leadership and influence by identifying and connecting emerging leaders from the United States and abroad. 

By helping build leadership, professional skills, and an understanding of U.S. policies and values early in participants’ careers, exchanges cultivate long-term relationships with Americans and promote U.S. values abroad. 

 

The United States is the global leader in attracting and hosting international students, with over one million international students studying in the United States in 2017, for the second consecutive year. 

Our world-class higher education system is one of our country’s greatest strengths and one of our best public diplomacy and foreign policy tools.

We offer the highest quality and most diverse system of higher education of any country, and U.S. colleges and universities drive innovation and educate generations of future leaders from all over the world.

Students from every country aspire to study at our world-class institutions. 

On our campuses, international students gain an appreciation for the American people and the American way of life, learn from our entrepreneurial spirit, and look to the United States for future partners in whatever career path they pursue.

When they return home, they share their impressions and help break down misperceptions about the United States. 

Many alumni pursue successful careers and attain senior-level positions upon returning home. 

The value of their U.S. experiences represents a significant return on our investment.

English language is a prerequisite for U.S. academic study, and many foreign students invest heavily in learning English before arriving in the United States.

As students further improve their language skills during their studies, they also further their integration into a global society and global workplace that recognizes English as the primary means of communication in business, science, education, the internet, and diplomacy.

While here, international students contribute their knowledge, skills and talents to American campuses and communities – large and small – across our country. 

American students benefit from interacting with foreign students on their campuses and in their classes by gaining exposure to diverse international perspectives.

International students also have a major economic impact on the United States.

Collectively, they contributed over $39 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016 (according to the Department of Commerce) and they supported over 450,000 jobs across the United States (according to the National Association of International Educators, NAFSA).  

The United States, however, cannot take our position as the global leader in higher education for granted. 

Other nations are also striving to bolster their own universities and attract international students to their shores. 

Allies and competitors alike, including Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK, as well as Russia and China, have set their sights on attracting a greater share of globally mobile students from around the world. 

These countries understand both the immediate and the long-term economic benefits of educating international students in their colleges and universities. 

They also realize the foreign policy benefits of building lifelong relationships with future leaders from countries around the world.

Thus from an economic and national security perspective, the United States must invest in our own country’s future leaders. 

It is important for U.S. students to gain international experience and develop expertise in foreign languages and cultures as well as the ability to operate in new and unfamiliar circumstances that study abroad fosters.  

This expertise is needed across the U.S. workforce, in all sectors. 

We at the State Department want more young people in our country to know that international education is an important component of their success, whatever their future goals may be.

It is vital to ensure that America’s future leaders have meaningful opportunities to experience the world beyond our borders.

In this regard, our focus in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is to increase the number of American students studying abroad, to make sure they represent the rich diversity of the U.S. population, and to diversify the locations overseas where they pursue their studies.

Currently, one third of all American students studying abroad study in one of three European countries – the United Kingdom, Italy, or Spain.  

It is in our national interest in order to maintain our leadership and to keep us strong and competitive to ensure that our citizens have expertise and experience with a broad range of countries and regions.  

We are very pleased that, in the past decade, the proportion of racial and ethnic minority students among U.S. study abroad participants has nearly doubled to 28.4 percent; the proportion of students with disabilities has more than tripled to 8.8 percent.

At the same time, there is still room for improvement. 

We are committed to working with partners in the United States and overseas to increase the diversity of American students who go abroad and to ensuring the accessibility of our exchange programs to all types of U.S. higher education institutions, including community colleges and minority-serving institutions.

 

The exchange programs conducted by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs play a critical role in advancing U.S. foreign policy and national security.  

Through exchanges, the U.S. government engages in people-to-people diplomacy to both bolster our diplomatic efforts among friendly nations and to advance our mission and engage populations in more challenging locales, including front-line states and countries in transition. 

Exchange programs allow U.S. embassies to build direct relationships with communities and audiences that may otherwise be difficult to access. 

They also allow us to prioritize specific areas in our bilateral relationships and to quickly respond to policy priorities.

For well over 40 years, we have supported the annual Open Doors Report, which is the industry standard for reporting on the mobility of students to and from the United States.  

Following its latest release, I received dozens of messages from U.S. embassies all around the world attesting to its value in highlighting our educational outreach and exchanges and the public diplomacy impact of exchanges overseas.    

As United States Ambassador to Mongolia, a position I had the privilege of holding until last November, I can personally attest to the value of exchange programs to advancing U.S. foreign policy goals.

Exchanges help build a foundation of mutual understanding on which we can then grow and develop our bilateral relationships.

In Mongolia, after each democratic election, my first calls were on alumni of U.S. exchange programs, including the Foreign Minister and key members of Parliament who formed a network of contacts who understand the United States and with whom we can work to advance shared goals of global peace and security.

To address a broad range of foreign policy goals in every region of the world, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs conducts a robust array of international exchange programs, including the flagship Fulbright Program, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Critical Language Scholarships, and our Young Leaders Initiatives.

We also support a global network of EducationUSA educational advising centers that provide information on U.S. study to international students worldwide. 

We also sponsor high school exchange programs and exchanges for professionals, such as our International Visitor Leadership Program, and we oversee private sector exchanges that provide opportunities for approximately 300,000 additional individuals each year to benefit from exchanges.

Secretary of State Tillerson recently highlighted the importance of having a qualified work force that represents the diversity of America.

I am proud that Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange programs directly contribute to increasing both the quality and diversity of our own work force at the State Department. 

Approximately 25 percent of newly recruited foreign service officers are exchange program alumni.

We know that employers outside the government also value the knowledge and abilities gained through international education, including critical thinking skills, interpersonal and intercultural communication skills, and foreign language abilities. 

Foreign alumni of U.S. government exchange programs have tremendous influence and impact in their home countries and worldwide, with each year’s new cohort of alumni joining a global network of over a million individuals who understand the United States and actively seek both to contribute to their home countries and to collaborate with their American counterparts. 

More than 500 alumni have gone on to become heads of state of their respective governments, and one in three current foreign leaders has previously taken part in a U.S. government exchange program.

One final note on the impact of U.S. government exchanges on the United States – over 90 percent of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs resources are directly invested in U.S. citizens or reinvested into the U.S. economy through grants to U.S. non-profit organizations, tuition at U.S. colleges and universities, and support to U.S. local communities through expenses such as transportation, housing and related costs. 

I would also note that we receive tremendous support for the Fulbright Program from foreign governments, U.S. higher education institutions, and the private sector. 

For every $2 of USG funding, we receive $1 from other sources, making Fulbright one of the most highly leveraged programs in the U.S. government.

 

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.  

I appreciated the opportunity to highlight the value that we at the State Department place on international education and exchanges.

It has been a pleasure to join this panel, and I look forward to hearing from our next two speakers.

Thank you. 

Speech Details

Speakers

Jennifer Zimdahl Galt

Speech Location

Rayburn Building, Washington, D.C.

Date given

Thursday, January 18, 2018