194,029 Chinese students studied in the U.S. during the 2011-2012 academic year. 15,000 American students studied in China the academic year before that. The imbalance is starting to look like our trade deficit.
Right now, the US trade deficit stands at about $480B year. That’s roughly 33% of our $15+ trillion dollar economy.
Meanwhile, in 2012, 764K international students studied in the United States. During the same time period, 274K US students studied abroad. Let’s call that our “27% international education” deficit.
We have a 33% deficit in international trade, and a 27% deficit in international education.
Those numbers seem pretty close together. Coincidence?
Well, yes, technically this is a coincidence : ) Correlation is not causation, and there are manifold unrelated factors contributing both trends.
However: while there is no absolute causal identity between the US trade deficit and our international education deficit, that doesn’t mean that there is no connection between those two figures. Many people think there is a connection. The authors of the Lincoln Commission apparently thought so:
“Making study abroad the norm and not the exception can position this and future generations of Americans for success in the world in much the same way that establishment of the land-grant university system and enactment of the GI Bill helped create the ‘American century.’”
For those unfamiliar with the Lincoln Commission, it was a bill introduced in Congress that called for Universities, Study Abroad programs, and the government to cooperate in an effort to send 1M US students to study overseas annually by 2017.
Unfortunately the bill died in committee.
But the dream goes on. IFSA partnered with Arcadia to create the Alliance for Global Education in 2007, partly inspired by the Lincoln Commission’s findings. While the US is not currently on track to have 1M students studying overseas by 2017, the growth trendline has picked back up since the depth of the recession during the 2008/2009 & 2009-2010 academic years.
All students have to ask themselves the question: Can I afford this? Considering my future plans—the lifestyle that I want, the projected compensation in my field etc.—do I really want to take on the cost of spending a year abroad?
We acknowledge that every student has to make there own calculations. But we endeavor to underline the point that—considering the numbers, and depending on your hoped-for career path—there are times when you should also ask the question: “Can I afford to not study abroad? Can I afford to sacrifice any competitive edge that’s available to me?”