Renewing America

For the United States to succeed, it must fortify the political, economic, and societal foundations fundamental to its national security and international influence. With its Renewing America initiative, the Council on Foreign Relations is evaluating nine critical domestic issues that shape the ability of the United States to navigate a demanding, competitive, and dangerous world.

This project is made possible in part by the generous support of the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation.

 

Democracy and Governance

A well-functioning political system is necessary for advancing competitive economic policies. Political division and democratic backsliding in the United States hamper its ability to project power abroad.

United States

Violent far-right extremism threatens minority communities, but its targets go far beyond just them. 

United States

Each Friday, I look at what the presidential contenders are saying about foreign policy. This Week: It will be a break from recent practice if either party’s nominee wins big in November.

United States

Each Friday, I look at what the presidential contenders are saying about foreign policy. This Week: The forty-fifth president says he will encourage Russia to attack NATO countries who don’t spend enough on defense.
Education

An educated citizenry and high-skilled workforce are critical to maintaining the United States’ economic edge. The United States has fallen behind its peers in K–12 schooling and today’s education models aren’t delivering the skills students need for the future.

Education

Jenny Lee, vice president for Arizona International, dean of international education, and professor of educational policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona, leads the conversation on U.S. international academic collaboration and how U.S.-China tensions are affecting higher education. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Jenny Lee with us to discuss U.S. international academic collaboration. Dr. Lee is vice president for Arizona International, dean of international education, and professor of educational policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona. She is also a fellow of the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Lee formerly served as a senior fellow of NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, as chair for the Council of International Higher Education, and as a board member for the Association for the Study of Higher Education. And she has also served as a U.S. Fulbright scholar to South Africa, as a distinguished global professor at Korea University, and as an international visiting scholar at the City University of London, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. So, Dr. Lee, thank you very much for being with us for today’s topic. I thought you could begin by giving us an overview of current trends in U.S. international academic collaboration, especially looking at what’s happening with our relations with China. LEE: Sounds great. Well, thank you for the opportunity, Irina. It’s a pleasure to be here and to speak with you and all those listening right now. I’ll speak for about ten or so minutes, and then open it up and engage with the audience. Hopefully, you all have some good questions that will come up during my remarks. So, clearly, we’re entering a very interesting and somewhat uncertain chapter in how we understand the role of higher education globally. So I will begin with some general observation so all our viewers are on the same page. Now, first and foremost, the U.S. is mostly at the top when it comes to the higher education sector. Most of us already know that the United States houses the most highly ranked institutions. And this allows the country to be the largest host of international students and scholars from around the world. According to the latest IIE Open Doors report published a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. attracted over a million students from all over the world. And we’re almost back to pre-pandemic levels. We also host over 90,000 scholars. And the primary purpose for them being here is research, for about two-thirds to 75 percent of them. These international scholars, as well as international graduate students, contribute significantly to the U.S. scientific enterprise. The U.S. is also among the leading countries in scientific output and impact, and the largest international collaborator in the world. In other words, the U.S. is highly sought because of its prestigious institutions, drawing top faculty and students from around the world. And with that comes the ability to generate cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs which further secures the U.S.’ global position in academia. At the same time, of course, we’ve seen China’s economy rise significantly as the country surpassed the United States in scientific output, and more recently in impact as measured by publication citations, and is outpacing the U.S. in the extent of R&D investment. Chinese institutions have also made noticeable jumps in various global rankings, which is a pretty big feat considering the fierce competition among the world’s top universities. What we’re witnessing as well are geopolitical tensions between the two countries that have impacted the higher education sector. While these two countries, the U.S. and China, are the biggest global collaborators—and they collaborate more with each other than any other country—they’re also rival superpowers. As global adversaries, what we are witnessing as well is increased security concerns regarding intellectual theft and espionage. I’m going to spend some time summarizing my work for those who are not familiar to provide some further context. I and my colleagues, John Haupt and Xiaojie Li, also at the University of Arizona, have conducted numerous studies about U.S.-China scientific collaboration. And what we’re observing across these studies is how the scientific pursuit of knowledge, which is fundamentally borderless, is becoming bordered in the current geopolitical environment. International collaboration, long valued as positive-sum, is being treated as zero-sum. Besides the rise of China and the accompanying political rhetoric that posed China as a so-called threat, tensions also grew among accusations, as you may recall, about the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and a corresponding sharp increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States. Public opinions about China were not favorable, and thus there was not a whole lot of public resistance when the FBI’s China Initiative was launched in 2018. This initiative basically signaled that anyone of Chinese descent was a potential enemy of the state, including possible Chinese Communist Party spies in our own universities, even though there was no pervasive empirical or later judicial cases that proved such a damaging assumption. Nevertheless, world-renowned Chinese scientists were falsely accused of academic espionage and their careers and personal finances ruined. In my research that followed with Xiaojie Li, with support from the Committee of 100, we surveyed about 2,000 scientists in the U.S.’ top research universities during the China Initiative. And we found that one in two Chinese scientists were afraid that they were being racially profiled by the FBI. We also observed that consequently scientists, especially those with Chinese descent, were less inclined to collaborate with China, less inclined to pursue federal grants, less inclined to even stay in the United States but rather to take their expertise to another country where they felt safer to pursue their research, including in China. In sum, the federal government’s attempts to weed out possible Chinese spies was highly criticized as a damaging form of racial profiling affecting even U.S. citizens and, in the end, undermined the U.S.’ ability to compete with China. Especially now, as we continue to observe Chinese scientists leaving the U.S. and taking their skills and talents elsewhere. With John Haupt and two academics at Tsinghua University in China, Doctors Wen Wen and Die Hu, we asked about two hundred co-collaborators in China and in the United States how were they able to overcome such geopolitical tensions and the challenges associated with COVID-19 during the pandemic? And we did learn something somewhat unexpected, and I hope valuable. Basically, we found that mutual trust between international collaborators helped overcome such perceived hurdles, including risks of being unfairly targeted. What this tells us is that a chilling effect is certainly real and remains possible, but in the end scientists have tremendous agency on what they study, where they study, and whether or not they seek funds, or where they seek funds. Regardless of the host or home country, international collaboration is important to all countries’ scientific enterprise. Coauthors from different countries improve the knowledge being produced, its applicability, enlarges global audiences, and thereby increases the impact of the work. So considering the value, yet risks, where do we begin? Firstly, federal and institutional policies, of course, matter, for better or for worse. But policies do not manufacture trust. The formation of an academic tie does not suddenly occur over a cold call in the middle of a global meltdown, as often portrayed in Hollywood. Rather, this is a gradual process. And the longevity of the relationship helps strengthen that trust over time. According to our research, these collaborative relationships begin as graduate students, postdocs, visiting researchers. They occur at academic conferences and other in-person opportunities. Cutting short-term fellowships, for example, will impact the potential of a future scientific relationship, but its effects may not be felt for years. Same with denied visas and opportunities for travel. Fewer graduate students from particular countries or fields also means a different shape when it comes to global science. U.S. for instance, was not too long ago Russia’s biggest foreign scientific collaborator, with the war in Ukraine, those research relationships, as well as much—with much of the Western world, have ceased. All of this, and my related empirical research, was conducted when I was a professor at my home institution. And since July, I’ve been serving, as Irina mentioned, as the dean and vice president of international affairs at my own institution. And I’ve been thinking a lot of, what does this mean for institutional practice? For those in university leadership positions, as mine, you know this is a tough challenge. Especially as domestic demand and state funding for higher education is generally declining. And at the same time, internationalization is increasingly central to senior leadership strategies. Universities are continuing vying to attract the world’s students, even despite a decline of interest from China. And at the same time, research universities in particular are quite dependent on federal grants. We have our own research security offices that need to ensure our universities have good reputations and relations with our large federal funding agencies and taking every precaution to not be seen as a vulnerable site of intellectual theft. These units tend not to operate within international affairs. And I’m very well aware that in my role of trying to attract as many students from China and develop international partnerships, all of them can be suddenly erased if a Chinese University partner does not pass visual compliance or there is a sudden presidential executive order, as we experienced under the Trump administration. I’m also very well aware that of senior leaders have to choose between my educational offerings and partnerships in China versus risking a major grant from a federal agency, I will lose. We witnessed that with the shutting down of over 100 Confucius Institutes in the U.S., despite a lack of evidence of systematic espionage occurring through these centers. Public perceptions, informed or not, strongly affect the nature of our international work, as in the case of Florida. Such negative perceptions are not one country-sided, of course. A key concern for Chinese and other international students and their parents relate to safety. Gun violence, including on our own college campuses, anti-Asian hate crimes in surrounding neighborhoods, and unfavorable political environment in which studies might be interrupted as in the case of Proclamation 10043, or visa non-renewals are all contributing factors for the decline of interest from China, and uncertain future student exchange as well. In closing, when it comes to China these days no practices are guaranteed. However, I can recommend some while also keeping in mind geopolitical conditions can suddenly change for worse, or perhaps better. I mentioned earlier the value of mutual trust. At my university, we have long-standing relationships with university leaders at Chinese institutions. We’ve set up dual degree programs in China. Actually, about 40 percent of our international student enrollment are through such partner relationships throughout the world, in which we go to where they are. Hiring staff who speak the language and know the culture are also essential. And, like any relationship, these arrangements have developed over time. They are not built overnight. It takes intention. It takes effort. But in my experience, as trust is established the numbers have grown, and the positive impact is still being felt. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much for that. That was terrific. Let’s go now to all of you for your questions, comments. You can use this to share best practices and what you’re doing to your universities or institutions. Please click the raise hand icon on your screen to ask a question. On your iPad or tablet, you can click the “more” button to access the raise hand feature. And when you’re called upon, please accept the unmute prompts, state your name and affiliation, followed by your question. You can also submit a written question, they’ve already started coming in, by the Q&A icon. And if you can also include your affiliation there, I would appreciate it, although we will try to make sure we identify you correctly. So let’s see. I’m looking for—no raised hands yet, but we do have questions written. So first question from Denis Simon, who’s a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Many U.S. universities have curtailed their exchanges and cooperation with China. You referenced that. Officials at these universities are worried that if they appear too friendly toward China they will lose all sorts of federal funding. Are these concerns justified? Are there any regulations or legislation that actually says federal funding can be removed assuming these universities are in compliance with the export controls, et cetera? LEE: All right. Well, thanks, Denis, for your question. I know there—when I saw the list of those who signed up, I know there are many here who can speak to this directly. So I encourage those to also raise their hands and provide input in the Q&A, maybe in the form of an A instead of a Q. But in any case, going to that question, you know, it’s a tough environment. And so much in my role, but what I even experienced in my research, is about that perception, that overinterpretation. So maybe signaling that we have this exchange program might draw attention in ways that might lead to suspicions that, oh, well is this, you know, somehow creating an opportunity for us to disclose military secrets? I mean, that’s where we take it. A friendly exchange or visit is oftentimes now having to be scrutinized and ensuring that there is no remote violation of export controls, even in educational delivery in a non-STEM field. And what we’re seeing is that this—we have our highly sensitive fields, but that kind of scrutiny we’re also seeing applied to the institution more broadly. So these seemingly benign programs about language or culture, about fields that are enhanced or help promote so-called American values, are also being watched. So I believe as an institutional leader, again, as I mentioned earlier, having to deal with the possibility of unwanted or unwarranted attention versus not having that program, I think some, as Denis has pointed out, are leaning towards being more cautious. Unfortunately, China—any work with China is considered a risk, even if there is no reason for risk, as we’ve witnessed under—or, observed under the China Initiative. I don’t know if I’ve fully answered that question, but please follow up if I haven’t. And I know others can probably say more to that issue. FASKIANOS: Great. I’ll take the next question from Peter—I don’t know how to pronounce— LEE: Peter Becskehazy. Hi, Peter. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: There you go. Thank you very much. LEE: I know Peter. FASKIANOS: All right. Good. Well, I’d love if Peter asked his question directly, if he can. Oh, good. From Pima Community College. Go ahead, Peter. Q: Hello, Jenny. Nice to see you. LEE: Hi, Peter. Q: Now my question is, the University of Arizona and other universities have had an inflow of dozens of countries, adding up to the million that you mentioned. Are other countries trying to fill in slots left vacant by Chinese students and scholars? LEE: Yeah. Great question, Peter. And I think you can also share what you’ve observed at Pima in terms of the patterns you’ve witnessed. But for us, and as we are seeing nationally, we’re seeing India rise. Not at the—not at higher numbers in many institutions, compared to China, but the rate is rising. It’s not so simple, though, because we also have relations in India, and trying to set up agreements, and bring students. The competition in India is intense. So even though there’s a relatively so-called large market, and the U.S. has been quite successful in attracting Indian students, that is perhaps where the attention is as a more, I would say—I hate to use the word “market,”—but a stable student market. There’s a lot more interest in graduate-level education globally, as we’ve observed. These countries that formerly didn’t have capacity now do have capacity. They have online offerings. They have branch campuses, dual degrees, lots of other options. And so the niche for the U.S., whereas before we didn’t really have to think about a niche, is really in graduate education. Now, of course, that’s not good news for Pima, that’s thinking about a community college and other kinds of educational offerings. But for us, we’re thinking about India a lot. Southeast Asia, of course, has always been an important partner to us. Africa continues to be a challenge. We know that when we think about population growth, Africa is the future. There’s still challenges and trying to identify places where there is capacity. But also the affordability of a U.S. education is a huge challenge. So it’s a great question. And, again, I’m curious to know other places in the world people recommend. Of course, Latin America, given our location, is a key strategic partner. But again, affordability becomes an issue. And again, I’m just talking about the traditional international student who would choose to come to Arizona. Not talking about research collaboration, which is less bound by affordability issues. Irina, you’re muted. FASKIANOS: How long have I been doing this? OK. (Laughs.) I’m going to take the next written question from Allison Davis-White Eyes, who is vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Fielding Graduate University: We have tried to work on collaborations with European universities and African universities, and met with much difficulty. What trends are you seeing in these regions? And what are emerging global markets beyond China? LEE: Great question, Allison. I mean, if you could leave the question in the future, so because I am visually looking at the question at the same time. FASKIANOS: Oh, great. Sorry. LEE: So, Allison, I’m not sure if you’re referring to academic or research. Of course, within Europe, where the government does highly subsidized tuition, it’s just becomes financially a bad deal, I suppose—(laughs)—for a student in the world who would normally get a free or highly reduced tuition to pay full price at our institution. So that kind of exchange of partnership, especially when it’s about—when it’s financially based, becomes almost impossible from my experience. But thinking about research collaboration, it depends on the level. So if it’s an institutional agreement, you know, it’s—often, these MOUs tend to just be on paper. It takes quite a bit of—it’s very ceremonial. You need to get legal involved. It’s a whole process to get an MOU. We really don’t need these non-binding MOUs for research agreements. Some countries like it, just to display that they have an MOU with a U.S. institution. But essentially, it doesn’t stop me as a professor to reach out to another professor at the University of Oslo, and say, hey, let’s do a study. Which we actually are doing. So, yeah, feel free to be more specific, or if you want to raise your hand or speak on—and elaborate on that question. So, again, for educational exchange, it is difficult because we are—there’s already a process within the EU that makes it very affordable and highly supported within the EU, or if you’re part of that bigger program. Africa, again, my challenge from my role as an institutional leader is identifying places where there is already enough mass education up through high school where one would be able to consider, first of all, being admitted to a U.S. institution, but secondly, to be able to pay the cost. FASKIANOS: Allison, do you want to expand a little bit? Q: Oh, sorry. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: There you go. There you go. Q: Right. Dr. Lee, thank you for your response. I think it was helpful, especially regarding the subsidizing of education in Europe. We’ve been working on some research partnerships. And we have just—you know, really, it has just been extremely difficult with European universities. And I do think part of it has to do with the way things are subsidized in Europe. I was just wondering if there were new and different ways to do it. I do appreciate your comment about the MOUs being largely ceremonial. I agree. And would like to see something with a little more substance. And that will take some creativity and a lot of partnership and work. As for Africa, we have tried to create partnerships with South Africa. I think there’s some potential there. Certainly, some excitement. We’ve had a few students from Nigeria, extremely bright and motivated. I just would—you know, would like to hear, maybe from some other colleagues as well on the call, if there are creative ways in working with these students as well. So, thank you. LEE: Yeah, no. And just to follow up quickly, and, again, opportunities for others to share, academic collaboration, as I mentioned during my remarks, is largely built upon mutual trust. And not to say it can’t happen from top down, but really does—is most successful from bottom up. And I don’t mean to refer to professors at the bottom, but meaning those that are actually engaged with that work. And so just some considerations is rather than a top-down initiative or strategy, is to identify those that are visiting scholars, already from that country, have networks within that country. What’s interesting, as I learned in my current role, is how little my predecessors worked with professors in these area’s studies programs, because they’re oftentimes treated as a separate or having different interests in mind when actually there is a lot of overlap to identify those that are actually there. Allison, by the way, I lived in South Africa for eight years. And I know it actually takes a long time. My Fulbright started off as a one year, and I had to extend it because even getting the data while I was on the ground takes time. And I’ll be honest, I think part of it was taking some time just to build trust the intentions of my work, what was I going to do with that data, how is that going to be used? Was it actually going to be ways to empower them? You know, for those who study international collaboration, know this north and south divide, and I think there are places in the world that are—maybe have some guardrails up from those—not saying this is what’s happening in your institution—but someone that they don’t know coming from the Global North to study someone else in the Global South. And so how do we create or initiate a collaboration that is clearly, expressly mutual at the onset? And, again, this is where trust can be operationalized lots of different ways, but that even begins with that initial message. I mean, I remember when I started my work, nobody responded to me. They’re like, who are you? And I don’t care who you are or what your CV says. And it takes time. You know, building that relationship, and that person introducing me to that other person. Like, you know, this is how scientific networks form. And I think, to some extent, this is also how institutional collaborative relationships also form. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to David Moore, who has a raised hand. Q: OK, thank you. I just got unmuted. FASKIANOS: Great. Q: Lee, I appreciate your comments. And I heard your reference to Florida earlier. I don’t know if we have colleagues on this call from Florida, but I think they’ll know what I’m about to say. I’m the dean of international education at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale. And as of tomorrow, December 1, Florida has to—all institutions in Florida, public institutions, colleges and universities, must be completely devoid of any partnerships in China. And not just China. There are seven countries of concern. And you probably can cite them, most of you would know the other six. But of the seven countries, Broward had four partnerships in China alone, none in the other countries that were active. And so we are now officially done, have to be. And I’ve had to notify the partners as well as our accrediting body, because these were international centers of Broward where they literally offer—we offered associate degrees, two-year degrees. And students could then transfer to an institution in the United States. Now, this didn’t catch us too much by surprise because two and a half years ago our Florida legislature started in on this, really probably before that, where they isolated universities in Florida and said: You cannot do research—sensitive research, whatever, you know, engineering, computer science, et cetera—any research without notifying the state. And there’s an elaborate process that had to be—you know, they had to go through to do this. But now it’s not just research institutions. Now it’s not just those kinds of collaborations. It is, in fact, all partnerships of any kind. We had to end our agent agreements where we were recruiting students from China that were—where the companies were based in China. And in course our programs were not research. They’re just general education, two-year associate’s degree, maybe some business. But we’ve been informed now it’s completely done. And so I’m actually looking for institutions outside of Florida who might be willing to take over the role that we’ve had in transcripting students who later want to come to the United States. At least for the first two years in China, and then transferring to the upper division to the U.S. So I’m not sure. You’re probably quite familiar with this. I don’t know if you know the details of how it was worked out in practice. We were the only community college in the state that had any partnerships. So we were the ones that had to desist. So I want to—there are probably people on the call that are familiar with this, but there might be many others. And I just wanted to say that I’m looking to, you know, open that door to other institutions outside of Florida that might be willing in, yes, take a risk to go into China, but to—I’ve always felt that these kinds of programs were very good to build relationships, partnerships, communication. Ambassadors really. Where we feel like we were representing American education, whatever, you know, we call American values, democracy, you know, community. We thought we were doing good. But we found out we were—we were not. We were—we were doing something that went opposed to the prevailing political climate, at least in Florida. So that’s my comment. I think people should know about it. And thank you for letting me speak to it a bit. Maybe someone will speak up and say they’re interested in they can get in touch with me, David Moore at Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. LEE: David, thank you for sharing what you did. This is a really important example of where other states could very well head. And what’s interesting, as David noted, we’re talking about a community college. When we normally think about cutting ties, it’s usually around the concerns about national security. Now, how this translates to a two-year degree that is solely educational based is a pretty far stretch, and yet is being impacted quite severely. So I think we should continue to follow this example—unfortunate example. And, David, yeah, your partners have reached out to my office, and I’m sure to others. But thank you for being available. Q: You’re welcome. We have partners—we are also working with your Jakarta, Indonesia center there. So we have that connection. Thank you. LEE: Mmm hmm. Thanks. FASKIANOS: And if anybody wants to share contact information in the Q&A box, you can certainly do that. That would be great. There is a written question from Tutaleni Asino at Oklahoma State University: There was an article today in SEMAFOR highlighting that there are currently 350 U.S. students studying in China compared to 11,000 in 2019. Comparatively, there are 300,000 Chinese students in the United States. Is this a one-way problem, where the U.S. is not investing in international engagements as a result of being more inward looking and other countries having more options of who to collaborate with? LEE: Yeah. Tutaleni, that’s—I think your question is an answer. And I think it’s—I agree with your observation. So we are seeing that as there’s state and public disinvestment in higher education, and including scrutiny about international higher education, we’re also seeing a decline and cutting of foreign language programs in the United States. So here we are, a monolingual country whose students mostly go to Europe or other English-speaking countries to study abroad. A very limited number of international—U.S. students who pursue undergraduate degrees in a foreign country. And knowing that the future is global and international, at least in my opinion, does not set the U.S. up well to be globally competitive, even though much of its international policy is around this rhetoric of we need to compete with China. And so you raise a good point. How is this possible if U.S. citizens don’t speak Chinese, or have no interest in learning about Chinese culture, or there’s reduced opportunities even in our own institutions, I think is something to think about and ask more questions about. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question from Zhen Zhu, chair and professor of marketing, director of faculty excellence, and director for international engagement at Suffolk University: How do you see the trend of U.S. students’ interest in study abroad to China? LEE: There is actually growing interest. As many of you know, China—offering Chinese language in high schools is not as unusual as it used to be. There is growing interest as students are thinking about employability in global markets in multinational or international organizations or corporations. It would be fundamental, in fact, for someone who has any interest in international work to pick up the language if they can, and at your own institution. FASKIANOS: Great. Let’s see. From—I’m going to take the next question from Jeff Riedinger: Is there a role for universities to play in knowledge diplomacy to sustain international relationships and collaborations in addressing global problems such as climate change and pandemics when national governments may be at odds with each other? LEE: Thanks, Jeff. And hi, Jeff. I’m just going to read over that question so I can kind of digest it a bit. Is there a role for institutions to play in knowledge diplomacy, such as climate change, pandemics, when national governments may be at odds with each other? Absolutely, 200 percent. It is occurring—knowledge diplomacy, science diplomacy. That one individual going on a Fulbright or coming to study here for some extended visit, having these collaborations and, ultimately, you know, science—knowledge production—I mean, there’s no bounds. And when we think about the kind of research that may not occur because of these national governments are at odds when it comes to addressing climate change or other global issues, you know, the world is paying somewhat of a price when it comes to that in—when there are overarching concerns about national security. So, you know, my issue has always been with policy you overlook nuance, and with sweeping policies that overlook the disciplinary distinctions and contributions, what is lost in the pursuit of trying to stay ahead of another country in fields and areas that really have no economic or military value, right? But yet, have an important cultural value, or maybe will address something bigger, such as COVID-19. So as I mentioned, the work that I referenced earlier about U.S.-Chinese scientists coming together during COVID-19, were actually scientists who studied COVID-19 together. And again, this was not—this was fraught with risks. They were very well aware that there was a lot of scrutiny about any research about COVID-19 coming from China. There was scrutiny about, you know, where the data was held, who was analyzing it, who was funding it. And yet, these scientists took these risks in order to address how does the world deal with the pandemic. And this was based on interviews of those studies that were actually successful and published. This is where that mutual trust, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is so important. And without that mutual trust, these studies, I’m pretty certain, would never have been published, because it was not an easy path when it comes to that particular geopolitical climate during the pandemic. FASKIANOS: Jenny, I’m just going to ask a question. President Biden and President Xi met during APEC. Did anything come out of that meeting that could affect U.S.-China academic collaboration? LEE: Yeah. You know, this is tough. I mean, how do you analyze political statements? What do they really mean? And what is really going to change? I think what’s clear is that there’s an acknowledgment that we’re interdependent, but we’re also adversaries. Almost a love/hate codependent, in a relationship that we can’t just easily separate but we do need each other. But the form that it takes, I think there’s an understanding it needs to be more specific. And I don’t think that has been clarified yet. I realize I missed part of Jeff’s question on what can institutions do? That’s such a good question. And I got more into the topic than the actual to-do. What can institutions do? Honestly—(laughs)—I’ll just speak as a researcher, to back off a bit, right? To let scientists do what they want to do. Yes, we need to follow disclosures. We need to make sure there’s no conflicts of interest. We need to follow all of these procedures. But what I also found during the China Initiative, there was also this chilling climate in which there’s an overinterpretation that may put institutions at risk. And to my knowledge, institutions were not at risk to the extent to which their scientists, especially those of Chinese descent, felt scrutinized. FASKIANOS: Thank you. We have a raised hand from Dan Whitman. Q: OK, I think I’m unmuted. Thank you, Irina. And thanks, Professor Lee, for mentioning the Great Wall that that prevents us from dealing with even Europeans who have subsidized education or Africans who have no money. And just an anecdote, since you have welcomed anecdotes, I am an adjunct at George Washington University. But totally unrelated to that, just for free and just for fun, pro bono, nobody pays, nobody gets paid. A course that I’m giving by webinar, it’s zero cost. The topic is crisis management, but it could be any topic. And in that group, which there are about eighty people who tune in twice a week, fifteen Kenyans, twenty-five Ukrainians, and forty Kazakhs. I mean, I don’t know if there’s ever been exchange between Kazakhstan and Kenya. Anyway, my point is things can be done. We share it for free. What motivates the students? A certificate. It’s so easy to give them a certificate. And in many countries, they very highly value that, even though it’s not a—there’s no formality, there’s no formal academic credit. But the students are very motivated. And possibly, there may be universities in the U.S. that could—that might want to give a professor a small stipendium to do an informal webinar course, which would create connections, which would be zero cost, basically, and would bridge that gap of funding that you’ve alluded to. Thank you. LEE: Yeah. Dan, thank you for that. And I think this leads to a kind of a spin-off comment about certificates. Absolutely. Micro-credentials or alternative forms of education, where there’s maybe not a full-fledged undergraduate degree but some certificate, I think, is important niche, especially for returning adults or communities where they’re not able to afford to take time off. So that flexibility, and obviously now with online education, just becomes so much more accessible and very low cost. Something else to keep in mind, though, is that, depending on the institution you’re from, that will make a difference in certificates. I mean, an institution like George Washington University offering a certificate may have some symbolic or perceived value that may be higher than an institution that is lower or are not ranked at all. So this is where, unfortunately—I’m a big critic of global rankings. But unfortunately, it does play a role in how that certificate is being perceived and the attractiveness of that certificate. But absolutely, this is definitely a way to open access especially for places in the world that just cannot physically move or have the funds to support their studies. FASKIANOS: Great. There are two comments/questions in the Q&A that I wanted to give you a chance to respond to about Africa, from Tutaleni Asino and Fodei Batty. Dr. Asino talks about English is the language of instruction and governments in Africa where they’re funding education to a higher degree, and thinks that there are opportunities there, but it sounds like all fifty-four countries are grouped together. And Dr. Batty talks a little bit about there are a lot of students from African countries pursuing graduate education in the United States. But South Africa is usually an exception to the higher education American norm in Africa. Most South Africans don’t like to travel, especially travel to America. I thought maybe you could just clarify some—respond to those comments. LEE: Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for sharing those comments. There’s a book I edited called Intra-Africa Student Mobility. And I agree with the comments. And one of the things I didn’t mention that I think is important to help us understand the broader global context is that there’s actually considerable international activity within the continent. And there’s actually considerable intra-Africa mobility within the continent. South Africa is the most important country player in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is globally ranked—has more globally ranked institutions than any other African country. And so South Africa then becomes an important hub. And, yes, as an English-speaking, among many other languages, country, that does attract African students to go oftentimes for a similar sense of shared culture, despite sometimes different languages and customs and backgrounds. And yet, nevertheless, South Africa is an important player within the continent. Not to say that there is no international mobility occurring, but there is increased capacity within the continent that would allow students and interested students to travel within the continent. Not the same extent, of course, as Europe. But the least we’re seeing that rise over time. And so it’s called Intra-Africa Student Mobility. Chika Sehoole and I coedited the book. We were able to get about eight African scholars to talk about the various reasons students would choose that particular African country, and what draw them. And what was really interesting about this phenomenon is that it goes against this prevailing notion of Africa’s victim of brain drain or all going to the north. That’s actually not what is happening. But that there is capacity building within the continent. So in trying to answer a different question, I skirted over a lot of the things I could go further into. But hopefully that book will shed light on what’s happening within that continent, at least from the perspective of eight different countries. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you for that. I’m going to go next to Jonathan Scriven at Washington Adventist University in Maryland: What are some of the strategies universities are using to make education more affordable in the United States? If that is a challenge, are schools investing more or less in setting up campuses in foreign countries as a way to reach foreign students? LEE: I’m just going to read over that question. OK, yeah. Great question, Jonathan. So what’s happening in my institution and many others is a way to attract students is we’re providing considerable aid, merit aid, financial aid, aid even to international students. The majority may not even be paying the full sticker price. Now this, of course, will affect the revenue that would have otherwise been generated, but nevertheless is a way to deal with the fierce competition across U.S. institutions for these top students. So how to make it affordable? There’s a lot of aid going around at the undergraduate, not just the graduate, levels. And so what are institutions doing? Well, for example, at the University of Arizona for our dual degrees, it’s a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to be a student at our main campus. When you have a combination of hybrid or online delivery with a campus partner maybe providing most of the gen ed’s and then we would teach most of the major courses as an example, that does significantly lower the cost where that student will still get a bona fide University of Arizona degree, just like they would at main campus. So these alternative forms of delivery certainly make it more affordable, especially for those that opt to stay in their home country and receive an online education, or a flipped classroom model, or a dual degree. FASKIANOS: Great. Denis Simon, if you can—why don’t you ask your question? Q: Here I am. OK. Recently, on a trip to China in September, a number of faculty have told me they’re no longer wanting to send their best students abroad. They want to keep them in China. And this is all part of the rise of Chinese universities, et cetera. And so it may not be simply the souring of Sino-U.S. relations that has causal effect here, but simply the fact that China now is becoming a major, you know, educational powerhouse. And that also could change the dynamics. For example, even the BRI countries could start to send their students to China instead of sending them to the United States. Do you see anything evolving like this or—and what might be the outcome? LEE: Yeah. Spot on, David. That halo effect of a U.S. degree is not the same as it was when I was a university student. Chinese students, as well as students in the world, are much more savvy. They have access to information. They have access to rankings. They know all universities are not the same. And they know that they have some institutions that are highly ranked and may offer better quality education than the U.S. So that the image of a U.S. degree, of course, is not as universally perceived as it may have been, I don’t know, pre-internet, or without the—all sorts of rankings in which institutions are rated against one another. And absolutely, Chinese institutions are very difficult to get into, fiercely competitive, producing far more scientific output than some of our leading institutions. And there’s another factor when it comes to Asian culture just more broadly speaking, is that social network tie. Sociologists refer to it as social capital. When a Chinese student, a Korean student, Japanese student decides to study in the United States, they may lose that social tie that may possibly put them in a disadvantage when they decide to come back and compete for a position when they may just have that U.S. credential, but may have either lessened or no longer have that relationship that may have allowed them to get a position at the university, or in a place where that alumni network would have been especially useful. So again, I don’t want to generalize, you know, in any place to the world, but there is that component that I think sometimes is missed in the literature. Maintaining that social network is pretty key, especially as jobs, of course, global, you know, unemployment—places where students are competing for positions need to have every edge possible. So that also can be part of that reason they decide to stay. FASKIANOS: Great. The next question from Michael Kulma, who’s at the University of Chicago. He’s following on David Moore’s comments about Florida: Do you know how many other states in the U.S. are enacting or are considering such policies against partnerships with China? LEE: I do not know the answer. So if anyone wants to raise their hand and share about their own state, or put it on the answer part of the question and answer. There are related concerns about DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some of that may spill over to China. Hopefully, at some point at the Council of Foreign Relations will have a discussion on Israel and Hamas conflict and how institutions are dealing with that. And so we’re seeing a pretty challenging political environment that is clearly spilling over to our classrooms and to our international activities, our domestic recruitment. But I’m not answering your question, Michael. (Laughs.) I’ll leave it up to someone else to answer. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. So we don’t have very much time left. I thought maybe you could, given your research and expertise, could suggest resources—recommend resources for higher ed leaders and administrators to better understand how to promote collaboration. LEE: Sure. So promoting collaboration, it really—each person at a time. You know, again, MOUs may be signed, and maybe overarching presidents will come together and have an agreement, but there’s no guarantee that will ever happen. I’d love to do a study on how many MOUs never actually materialized into real action. So where do we begin? International affairs SIOs out there, identify who are your area studies experts? Who are your visiting postdocs? Who are your Fulbright scholars from other parts of the world? They all represent their own network and are certainly are valuable resources to consider. What I’ve sometimes have heard even at my own institution is, you know, how do we bring these people to the table? Why are they not at the table to begin with, and then how do we bring them there? And this is a relatively low-cost way to go about this, right? Like, faculty engaged in service. What kind of opportunities can your university provide for faculty service that is aligned with their area of expertise, the areas of the world they represent, the networks they have? And many of—some of you already have experienced this directly. These partnerships often begin with our alumni, international—former international students who decide to go back home. So, again, there’s just a lot of exciting opportunity. I love this field because it’s never boring. There’s always new ways to grow, expand new partners. But it really does begin with that essential element of trust. And that often begins with our own institutions and identifying those who’ve already started to build that network. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you very much. Really appreciate your being with us and for sharing your expertise and background, Dr. Lee. It’s been fantastic. And to all of you, for your questions and comments, and sharing your experiences as well. You can follow Dr. Lee on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @JennyJ_Lee. I will send out a link to this webinar, the transcript, and the video, as well as the link to the book—your book that you mentioned, and any other resources that you want to share with the group. And I encourage you all to follow @CFR_academic on X, visit CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for research and analysis on global issues. We also—just putting in a plug for our other series, Academic Webinar series, which is designed for students. We just sent out the winter/spring lineup and we hope that you will share that with your colleagues and your students. It is a great way for them to have access to practitioner scholars and to talk with students from around the country. So if you haven’t received that lineup, you can email [email protected], and we will share that with you. So, again, thank you, Jenny, for being with us, and to all of you. And wishing you safe and happy holidays. And good luck closing out this semester before we get to the holidays. (Laughs.) So thank you again. (END)

United States

To reverse the three decade long decline in the United States' share of semiconductor manufacturing, a concerted effort is required.

Education

Scott Jaschik, cofounder and former chief executive officer and editor of Inside Higher Ed, leads the conversation on the changing landscape of college and university admissions criteria. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/Academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Scott Jaschik with us today to discuss the changing landscape of college and university admissions criteria. Mr. Jaschik was a cofounder and former chief executive officer and an editor at Inside Higher Ed, a media company and online publication that provides news, opinions, resources, and events focused on colleges and university topics. He previously served as editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education and was a former board member of the Education Writers Association. And he’s a leading voice on higher education issues, publishing articles in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. So, Scott, thank you very much for being with us today. There’s a lot here to cover, I thought maybe you could give us context and set the stage of the current trends in college and university admissions, as well as the role and importance of international students and scholars at U.S. universities. JASCHIK: Sure. Thanks very much for the invitation. And it’s great to speak to CFR people. And it’s great particularly because you’re a group whose interests extend far beyond higher education. And it just goes to show, higher education is important to every society and everyone, really. So I think this is a great opportunity for me to talk to you. And mainly, I’m excited to hear what the attendees have to say about these issues. But briefly, to give an overview. The big issue, and I want to say a few—one thing, in terms of setting the context. Admissions, talking about college admissions, can vary hugely depending on who you are talking about—by student, by institution, and so forth. So I’m going to talk, for instance, at the beginning about affirmative action. And I’ll talk about the institutions that are most affected by the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. But then I’m going to talk about a trend in the rest of higher ed, direct admissions, and how that affects people in higher ed. And then at the end, I’ll throw in a few comments on the international students. So on affirmative action, the big news was this summer the Supreme Court ruled six to three that colleges—that two colleges in particular, Harvard and UNC Chapel Hill, were not following the law with respect to how they used affirmative action in admissions. It was a very strong decision, a very thorough decision, but one that greatly upset most people in colleges. The general public generally is a little bit skeptical of affirmative action. But in higher ed, there is very strong support for affirmative action. Now, it’s important to remember that this decision will directly affect maybe two hundred institutions. Now, it may indirectly affect many more down the road. I’ll talk about that in a minute. But it’s important to remember, at most colleges—you know, you read these stories every year about how under 5 percent of applicants get into Harvard, Yale, and whatever. Well, most colleges admit most applicants. And I’ll just repeat that, because it’s really important to remember. Most colleges admit most applicants. I think that is largely lost in the coverage of late on affirmative action. And it’s really important, if you have an opportunity, to shout that out to the world. Because even if a student doesn’t feel comfortable applying to an elite college or university, it’s important to always say that there is a place in higher ed for that student, and for all students. But on higher ed, this is a big decision for higher education because most of the top colleges in the country have used affirmative action in admissions. They don’t maybe want to talk about it now, but they have used it for their admissions processes. And now they can’t. And, you know, there’s really a lot of skepticism about what it will be like. Now, the expectations are based on the University of California, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas, because in prior court rulings and in state votes they do not use affirmative action. And if you expect them to follow—to follow what’s going to go on, people will predict a major decline for Black students, Latino students. White students actually are not going to gain a lot. Asian students will gain. But that’s based on those past examples. There’s a big question mark this year which is about the admissions tests that in the past were required of all students, but now they aren’t. And test-optional admissions truly took off during the pandemic, because there was a period of time when students literally couldn’t take the SAT or ACT. But a secondary reason, and arguably, I think, the more important reason, colleges dropped the test-optional—or, went test-optional, is this decision. They knew it was coming and this gives them a lot more flexibility. So do I expect to happen what happened with the University of California? I would say yes, but, because nobody really knows what the impact will be of test-optional admissions. Now, very quickly, some other things on affirmative action to remember. Many colleges are adding essays specifically to reach students who are minority students or who have particular experiences that colleges want to have. And this is, again—remember, even if a college asks, are you Black, Latino, or whatever, they cannot use that information when they evaluate students. So that will be totally invisible to the colleges. The Supreme Court decision explicitly said that students can write about their experiences in life and how that affects them for higher ed. But the Court’s going to be watching very carefully and wants to make sure that anything that the students say is not just a way to go back to considering students differently, as the Court said, on the race and ethnicity. Also, there’s a group working to create a new system to evaluate students’ character, because character is something that many people cite but they don’t really have a way to cite it. That’s the kind of thing that we’re seeing. Now, there are other issues too. Legacy admissions, in which colleges favor the children of alumni or relatives, that is under real tight scrutiny right now. There was nothing in the Supreme Court decision to say they couldn’t do legacy admissions, but many colleges are uncomfortable given that they cannot use the systems they came up with to help Black, and Latino, and Asian American students get into college. They are uncomfortable with legacy admissions because it primarily helps white students get into college. And that’s not something they want to do. Similarly, early decision is something that is very controversial, because it primarily helps white students. Now what’s unknown is two things. One is the final rule, so to say, on admissions. That’s going to be decided not by anything I say or that anyone else says, but it’s going to be back in the courts. I would be absolutely certain it will return to the courts. And they will, you know, hash that out. Also, there’s the question of financial aid. Some colleges award—and this is many more colleges—award financial aid in part based on race and ethnicity. Is that legal? We don’t yet know. Some players on both sides have offered their opinions, but that will be a huge decision that will come down. Now I want to talk about another issue in higher ed that’s going on, which is direct admissions. And if you’re not familiar with direct admissions, in direct admissions students do not apply to colleges. Students simply fill out a form, which includes their transcript, any test scores they want to submit, and roughly where they want to go to college. I don’t mean institution names, but, like, I live in Connecticut and these are the—and I want to go to college near my home. It’s important to remember, most college students go to college near their homes. So and then after that, colleges will look at the application that they filled out. And colleges will admit those students. Now direct admissions is very popular among all the institutions that I wasn’t talking about before, because it is a good way to recruit more low-income students, who seem to really like this system. But direct admissions has primarily been used on a small scale. And that—we have to see what will happen as it goes to a larger scale. So that is something still to find out. And then on international students, with international students most colleges very much want international students. But there are key things that may make it difficult to recruit them. One is foreign—the foreign relations, as your group well knows. I mean, you’ve got the war in Russia and Ukraine, which didn’t send a lot of foreign students to the United States, but they sent some. And, interestingly, some of the colleges in New York City have both Russian and Ukrainian students at the same college. And they are dealing with issues related to that. But the most students have come from China. And our relations with China are, frankly, pretty bad right now, I would say. And that raises real questions about which students will come. My guess is that the top universities are not going to have a loss in foreign students, or at least not a substantial loss. But it’s important to remember, foreign students are enrolling at every type of college and university. And they may be affected at institutions that aren’t as competitive in admissions. So that’s my rough answer to your question. Have at it. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And now we’re going to go to all of you for your questions and comments. And please use this as a forum too to share best practices. (Gives queuing instructions.) So I’m going to take the first written question from Edie Gaythwaite, professor at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida: The issue of essays is now the use of AI-generated essays being submitted. So how do you see the admissions process moving forward with this in mind? JASCHIK: That’s a great question. And it’s something that’s getting a lot of attention right now. And I’m going to answer first for what’s going to happen this year, and then I want to talk about the future. Right now, this is making a lot of people in admissions very nervous, because every day someone does a story on—on the way AI can be used to write essays. Colleges don’t know. So they are nervous. Now, some of the services that colleges use to detect plagiarism can also be used, they say, to maybe detect the use of AI. So that’s one possibility. Others are suggesting that colleges should instead of using regular essays, should require an essay that is handwritten and was graded by a high school teacher, and to turn it in with the high school teacher’s grades. Now that’s a little—there’s something odd about that, in that that assumes that the student didn’t use AI in high school, which, you know, who knows if that’s true. But the reason I would say not to get a huge panic this year, is that a bunch of colleges are working on the issue. I suspect that by the end of this year, they are going to have better ways to deal with AI than they do right now. So I would say, you know, watch. But remember—and the other thing I would say is to remember past examples. Remember, when Wikipedia first started? There were people saying, no college student is ever going to write his or her own essay again. They’re all going to come from Wikipedia. Well, they’re not. And so because a lot of people figured out how to use Wikipedia, and how not to use Wikipedia. So I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna, but there may be a better way coming. FASKIANOS: Our next question comes from Beverly Lindsay. Beverly, please identify yourself and ask your question. Q: Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. We can. Q: Great. Beverly Lindsay, University of California, multicampus. Hello, Scott. Good to hear your comments. I have something that wasn’t quite covered. Because I have been at two major research universities, actually more, but two in particular. They actually have informal legacy admits. And I would like your speculation on how that will continue. The second part of the question relates to HBCUs, particularly the ones that are known as the Black Ivies. I was at two of them. And I also know that they are concerned about having more diverse students from different economic backgrounds. Could you comment on that as well? Thank you. JASCHIK: Sure. Those are very good questions. So, first, on the informal legacies, which is something I have heard about. And I, in fact, did a story about a university that said it was eliminating legacy admissions, but it turned out they weren’t. They still had legacy admissions. And that’s because legacy admissions is something that colleges like to talk about with their alumni, but maybe not with the public. It strikes me that informal legacy admissions really doesn’t make sense. If you believe in legacy admissions, defend it. But informal strikes me as inappropriate, frankly. Now, on the HBCUs, and particularly, the so-called top HBCUs, there’s interesting developments with regard to affirmative action. When California eliminated affirmative action way back when, more Californians started to go to Morehouse, and Spelman, and other very good HBCUs. And we are going to see more of this in the next year, I think. But at the same time, I would caution against assuming that HBCUs can provide the answers to everything here. Morehouse and Spelman, despite being great colleges, to not have the financial aid that Harvard and Stanford have. They just don’t. There’s not enough money there. And it’s a different kind of experience, a great experience for some students. But financially and otherwise, there are limits to what they can do. Now, if Morehouse and Spelman could grow by a thousand students, well, that would sound wonderful. But I don’t think they can grow by a thousand students, at least not immediately. So this year, I think we’re going to be watching what goes on at those colleges. So I hope I’ve answered. FASKIANOS: Great, thank you. I’m going to take the written question from Todd Barry, who is professor at Hudson County Community College? Excuse me. How safe is it geopolitically for U.S. professors to teach abroad? JASCHIK: How what is it? FASKIANOS: Safe is it. JASCHIK: Oh, how safe? I think it really depends on the country. In lots of countries it is totally safe, in that—you know, you have to be realistic. What is—how safe is it to teach in the United States is a legitimate question, in some parts of the country. To go abroad, there are real issues if the country is not secure, it does not have an adequate system for making sure that people are protected. And also, there are issues related to the potential in other countries for anti-American thought to happen and to be a cause of concern. At the same time, there are many countries where you will find yourself welcome. And I think it’s great for American college professors to look for those places and to go abroad. They will learn as much as they will teach. So I think that’s, you know, that’s great. FASKIANOS: Great. Don Habibi has raised his hand, and also written a—written a question. But, Don, I think you’ve put your hand down, but I’d love you to ask it yourself, if you could unmute yourself. Q: OK. Yes. Hi. Yeah, my question was triggered by the first AI question. And that is, what’s to prevent—or how do you check a student who writes a fabulous story of their overcoming adversity or their combat experience, or whatever it is that, you know, would just sort of bring them to the top of the applicant pool. And the likelihood of fact checking that sort of thing is pretty small. And I mentioned in the question that several times reporters won Pulitzer Prizes for reporting on stories, and they made them up. FASKIANOS: And Don is—can you give us your affiliation? Q: I’m a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. FASKIANOS: Thank you. JASCHIK: Yes, that is a real concern. And it’s not just in admissions. Colleges are worried about that issue in the essays they will assign to students to write after—you know, after they’re enrolled. There, they—some people are arguing for in-person writing. You know, in class, where the students will be forced to write it down. Now, some students say they can’t write a long, handwritten essay anymore, because all they can do is type. And I have some sympathy for them, but that’s what they’re saying. It goes back to what I said before. Colleges are working on solutions to this and going to try. I would say that a good admissions counselor should be able to see some things that come out in their applications. Also, some colleges are changing their essays so that they are more about the college you are applying to, to make it more difficult to use a copied essay. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. The next question we’ll take from Melissa McGinnis, assistant director of admissions at Yale University’s Jackson School of Global Affairs: What are your thoughts on how these affirmative action issues impact graduate admissions for professional programs, not PhD? JASCHIK: Sure. Yeah, well, I’ll tell you about both. In law schools, medical schools, business schools, it is the same thing. That there’s no expectation that this decision doesn’t apply. And they have got to redo their systems and procedures just like their undergraduate counterparts do. PhD programs actually are interesting, though, because in many colleges and universities, those decisions are done by the department level. And it is more difficult to control a department than it is to control a whole school. You know, you may have six members of the English department or whatever deciding on admissions. But they can’t use race. That’s just—and if they do they’re going to get sued. So that’s just the rules. FASKIANOS: Great, thank you. We have a raised hand from Sneha Bharadwaj. Excuse me if I did not pronounce it correctly, but you can correct me. Q: OK. So my name is Sneha Bharadwaj. I’m from Texas Woman’s University here in Dallas, Texas. I was following up on other questions you answered regarding the holistic admission process. And I’m wondering, beyond the handwritten essay, are there any talks about video interviews or uploading video prompts, where you hear from that person? And if that is something that’s in the talks or is being considered, because I think we’re all in the same boat of wondering how this holistic admissions is going to work. JASCHIK: Right. Well, and Texas Woman’s University is a great example. It is a—it is a university in Texas that has men, for those who are not familiar with it. It is not—does not just admit women. And it’s—and in recent years, it’s become quite popular and is growing with more people using holistic admissions to get in. So, you know, to do an interview for everyone, on the one hand, it makes perfect sense. You meet the people, find out about them, find out about their interests, et cetera. But in most colleges, and I don’t know if this is true of Texas Woman’s University, that is a major undertaking, to interview everyone, even via Zoom. And most college admissions offices will be hard stretched to interview every student. Also, there have been charges that admissions interviews favor or don’t favor minority students. They are said to favor them, if colleges want to admit more minority students. They are said to disfavor them when the students don’t have the same expertise in doing interviews as wealthier students do. And most of the wealthy students are white students. So it is something that they are looking at, but I am not sure it will work at very many institutions this year. Q: Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to take the next question from Kurt Schmoke, who is the president of the University of Baltimore: Which states are using direct admissions? And will this spread to other states? JASCHIK: Great question. Nice to have a president here. And so, there are not any statewide requirements, but Minnesota is the state to look at. In Minnesota, they made it possible for any college that wanted to, to use direct admissions. And most of the colleges opted in in part. One college opted in entirely. They said, that’s the way you’re going to apply to get into that college. Most colleges, though, are doing it on a piecemeal basis, admitting just some students. And I’m curious, does the University of Baltimore—did you use direct admissions? FASKIANOS: Kurt, if you want to unmute and respond, that would be great. We’d love to hear your experience. Q: Sure. The closest that we have to that is dual enrollment programs that allow students to obtain X number of credits. And it usually is with the community college, some with high schools. But now I’m quite interested in this direct admissions. So I’ll take a look at what Minnesota is doing. JASCHIK: Right. You should do that. In Minnesota, the colleges that definitely didn’t do it were the flagship University of Minnesota campus and Carleton College. You know, again, colleges that get tons of applicants don’t need to, but it was all the other colleges. And if you search on Inside Higher Ed’s website, you’ll find a bunch of stories on the players in direct admissions, EAB, the common app, et cetera. There are places you can go. Niche does direct admissions. There are places that would love to talk to you, I’m sure. Q: Good, thank you. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next written question from Kevin Collymore, who is an assistant dean of retention and persistence programs at the University of San Francisco: How will institutions handle donor gifts, scholarships intentioned for students of color moving forward? FASKIANOS: Very carefully. (Laughs.) They will have to say that a gift cannot be used by the college specifically for minority students. In fact, some think the best way will be for colleges to work with outside groups, and to say: Don’t give us the money. Give it to the such-and-such foundation. And then that group may decide to give financial aid to minority students at the University of San Francisco, or any university. But this is very much in play right now, in that I think it’s one of the issues about which there will be a court ruling soon. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’ll take the next question from Mahmood Khan, a professor at Virginia Tech: Can you comment on anything that can be done about the time to get a U.S. visa? Students cannot join because they didn’t get visas on time. So I guess they couldn’t come this semester. JASCHIK: That is a terrible problem. And it has been a big issue this year. Many of the—going back to the pandemic—at the height of the pandemic, no one wanted to come to the United States. (Laughs.) And the United States didn’t really want them. Everyone was viewed as a threat, really, to the health of others. Since then, officially, they’ve opened up. But students from certain countries report incredible delays in getting their visas. And particularly these are students trying to travel to the United States from countries where there are many Muslim students, or many Muslim people and Muslim students. And they say they’re not rejected, but they just—it just takes forever for them to fill out and to get an answer. Now, why this is sort of—it’s subject to debate. Many of the people who work in processing visas say they are working as fast as they can, looking for the information they need, et cetera. Many in higher education view that very skeptically. And they see students who they cannot think of a good reason why that student should be denied a visa. And it just lingers. Some colleges have taken to educating students abroad for their first semester when they can’t get in. But that is something that only some colleges can do. And also, it denies the students what they’re seeking, which is a real experience at Virginia Tech, or any college. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Beverly Lindsay has her hand—I don’t know if that’s a residual from your last question or if you had a follow-on comment. OK. I’m going to move on, then. I’m going to take the next question from Michael Strmiska, a professor of world history at the Orange County Community College: Do you think that the ban on affirmative action in student admissions might eventually apply to academic employment? I teach in a community college with very low representation of non-white faculty and I think if the Supreme Court or other powers signaled that any diversity motivated hiring among minority faculty could come under dispute this would hamper or even halt our very slow progress toward creating a more diverse faculty. JASCHIK: You’re absolutely right. And many colleges do use affirmative action in hiring. The court decision itself did not speak to that. However, if you look at the justices on the court today and imagine a case involving academic hiring reaching them, it is hard for me to imagine the six justices would not also object to affirmative action in hiring. And that would be very limiting in terms of who colleges have to hire. Now, there is some leeway in that academic hiring decisions are mainly made at the department level, with some administration involvement. I don’t know if that will work. But I think you’re right to see that as a potential problem ahead. FASKIANOS: OK. The next question is from Galia Benitez, an associate professor of international relations at Michigan State University: You began the discussion by asserting that the number of Black and Latino students was going to decline. How do you see the actual class environment for professors and for minority students already in the system or in the future who form part of a minority would be teaching and learning in a less diverse environment? In short, what would be the consequences of these new admissions rules and learning? JASCHIK: The consequences aren’t good. We are already seeing racial incidents on campuses that sort of relate to the Supreme Court decision. And when the Supreme Court has taken up these issues in the past, they have similarly been incidents about race on campus. In terms for learning, again, I think it’s going to be very negative because students look to a diverse student body to learn, for all the reasons that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote back in 2003 still apply. Well, or I think they should still apply. They aren’t. They don’t apply because of the recent Supreme Court decision. I think it’s going to be tougher for faculty members who are truly committed on those issues. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I think Beverly has re-raised her hand, so I’m going to try again. Beverly, I’ll give you a few minutes to—seconds to unmute yourself. You’re still muted. There we go. Q: I don’t know what’s happening because I didn’t have another question. There may be a technical problem, but since I’m on I will ask something else. FASKIANOS: OK. (Laughs.) OK. Q: Scott, with reference to the international students and the international faculty, as we know in many of the tier one, AAU major research universities, and the ones also in our neighboring countries like Canada with the University of Toronto which is also a member of AAU and McGill, for example. A number of the faculty and the PhD students in particular—this is one of my areas of research—are in the STEM fields, but they’re from other countries. So how are we going to think of other ways to get diverse students, whether they’re Canadians in Canada, or Americans in the United States, to be able to pursue some of these programs in STEM fields? JASCHIK: It’s going to be very challenging. Look, in STEM fields international students are admitted not because only—in the past, haven’t been admitted only because of affirmative action. They’ve been admitted—there aren’t enough American students of any race or ethnicity to fill those classes. There aren’t. And that is true at any university in the country, really. Now it’s not that there aren’t talented Americans, but they are not—they’re just not in the right numbers to help. And so, you know, a bunch of things. When recruiting international students or recruiting any students, it’s money. And here, the University of California, I’m less worried about than colleges that are not as high in the rankings as UC is. But, you know, it’s money. And it’s also—it’s also mission. Why you come and do that. And it’s really important that professors have good answers to questions—to both of those questions, because they are going to be asked. But, no, it’s not going to be easy at all. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Beth Hillman. Beth, do you want to ask your question that you’ve written? Putting her on the spot. Q: Sure. I just—I’ll read it there. So how will the new return on investment economic models influence student choices about institutions and programs? JASCHIK: Return on investment, I don’t like the use of return on investment but I’m in a minority. And a lot of students and their parents love it. Look, return on investment is greater if you are a student in STEM at MIT than if you’re a student in English at any college or university. That’s just a fact. But to me what that misses is that in many areas the student studying English may have a perfectly good return on investment. And it’s important for colleges to publicize the actual returns that students get. Look, students who study English, and history, and political science, and whatnot, are not, in fact, as a group, ending up working at Starbucks And they, they have the ability to get good jobs. Now, most of them, they get good jobs by not staying as a—in that field. I am a history major. I am not a historian. And most people don’t seem to really understand that. But every year people will come up with more ways to rank colleges by return on investment. I don’t really put too much in it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Please raise your hands if you have more questions. I see none—no more raised hands or written questions, but we’d love to hear from you. So I do have a couple, though. I wanted to ask you a little bit about how do you think the U.S. higher education admission strategies is affecting our image in the world, our global standing? JASCHIK: That’s a really important question. Look, most people abroad would love to attend a great American college or university. They felt that way during the Trump administration, during the Biden administration, during the Obama administration. They want a U.S. college. Now, that doesn’t mean that they favor the U.S. in terms of what the U.S. is doing around the world, but they do value American colleges and universities. There’s no doubt about that. And so, in fact, I’d say it’s a real loss that the U.S. doesn’t act with more on that, because—you know, potentially it’s a great, great reason to come to the U.S. FASKIANOS: And what resources do you recommend for higher ed leaders and administrators to better understand how to promote equitable missions, processes, or to navigate now what’s this current landscape? JASCHIK: Read Inside Higher Ed—(laughs)—and, you know, pay attention to the issues. If you are at an elite institution, there’s a set of questions that you have about early admissions, about legacy admissions. You know, why are you continuing those policies if they are specifically resulting in—(coughs)—excuse me—in the admission only of white students? Align your financial aid to admitting more low-income students. You can base it on income, not race and ethnicity. Totally legal. And, you know, why aren’t more colleges doing that? If you are a less-wealthy institution, and an institution of less stature, I would raise the same question, particularly about merit aid—so-called merit aid, is what I would call it. Because merit aid is really aid for those who don’t really need aid. And, you know, why do you do these policies that don’t—that don’t actually improve things in terms of your student bodies? FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Todd Barry. Again, it’s Hudson County Community College: Will any of President Biden’s debt forgiveness programs be upheld by the courts? And will college rankings involve more companies to become more diverse? JASCHIK: Companies? FASKIANOS: Todd, do you want to just clarify that second part of your question? Thank you. Q: Yes, thank you. Will there be more organizations that put out college rankings rather than just the two that do so already? JASCHIK: Ah, OK. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Q: Thank you. JASCHIK: I suspect there will be. I’ve yet to find a ranking that I truly like, because I personally believe that college—the way to pick a good college is not to look at what somebody else said are the rankings of colleges. It’s just not a good way. But it may be a good way for some people to make a lot of money, so the rankings will continue. I’m sorry. I just forgot. What was the first part of that question? FASKIANOS: The first part was—let me pull it back up—will any of President Biden’s debt forgiveness programs be upheld by the courts? JASCHIK: Ah, yes. I don’t know. (Laughs.) The most recent of his debt relief things are being challenged. And I don’t know. I really don’t know if he’ll be successful. It depends which judges the cases are before to tell. Yet, I think I saw—I read this weekend, four million have applied for the most recent debt relief, with more expected to. That’s a lot of people. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question from Amanda Shanor, assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School: Why haven’t universities used First Amendment arguments to defend their admissions policies? And should they do so in the future? JASCHIK: I don’t think that that argument would carry the day with the current Supreme Court. I just don’t. They were—if you read the decision, if you listened to the arguments that were made, they were wholly committed to getting rid of affirmative action. It may help in the future with a different Court, but I think we have the current court for a while. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next written question from Edie Gaythwaite, again, a professor at Valencia College: To build off the global conversation, do you see institutions actively recruiting international students as admission applications decline? JASCHIK: Definitely. Many colleges—most colleges have some international recruitment strategy. Now, at—at Valencia, I don’t know what your strategy is. But, you know, many Florida colleges, they are trying to—they have a tremendous advantage in Latin America, as opposed to Europe and the Middle East. That may be something that they are trying. All types of colleges are pushing for more students. And it makes perfect sense. They should definitely recruit more. FASKIANOS: OK. And then we’re going to take the next question from Sneha again, from Texas Woman’s University: How does removing scholarships and merit aid impact enrollment and retention? JASCHIK: It depends what institution you’re at. Many institutions use merit aid to get students who wouldn’t otherwise attend. And that’s just a reality. Most students are making their choice based on a combination of factors, both the academic quality of the institution and the money. And so shifting it is a risky business. Now, some colleges that are more prestigious have managed to eliminate merit aid. But the main problem for colleges that are not in the elite is that they are trying to get some students who wouldn’t come, to come. And they’re very nervous about eliminating merit aid for that reason. FASKIANOS: And now that the—the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, have the admissions or the matriculation from international students—is that going up again? JASCHIK: Slightly. The big study comes out, I think, in December. So we don’t know yet for this year. FASKIANOS: Mmm hmm. Great. OK, so I’m doing a final call for questions from the group. Oh, I think—oh, one more from Kurt Schmoke: Do you think that the Court’s exemption of military academies will undermine their rationale for ending affirmative action? JASCHIK: You know, that’s really interesting. And the group that led the campaign against affirmative action, they are right now seeking plaintiffs at all the military academies. So I don’t think it’s going to last long. And I don’t know. The court may have left it in place because they truly believe it. But in reading the overall decision, I would have a hard time imagining them voting to uphold it anywhere. FASKIANOS: Thank you. We have a raised hand from Dena Bateh at NYU. Q: Yes. You pronounced that perfectly correct, thank you. My question is somewhat related, but maybe just on an alternative tangent. And it’s something that I’m going to be doing some research on. So I do teach at NYU, but I am an administrator at another institution. And I’ve noticed—I’m in New York City, of course. And I’ve noticed the pattern of referring to students as consumers or customers has been a prevalent topic. And I can’t even tell you how that boils my blood rather than, say, learner. So that’s my research topic. But I’m wondering, how is this being addressed? You know, to uphold the standards of higher education, what are your thoughts on moving forward beyond a Google certification or just certificates that will get students who are—who have not pursued higher education to a certain point, but then they’re going to need to return? What are your thoughts on that, I think, in general will be. JASCHIK: So I share your distaste, I guess, for calling students consumers. Look, you know, in a real higher ed environment, professors are teaching and they’re also testing students on what they’ve done, period. But there are some areas where a more consumer approach can work. I did a story about fifteen to twenty years ago about—I wanted to take an online course. And I sent off emails of my interest, didn’t say it was for journalism, to some nonprofit and for-profit places. And the for-profit places clearly saw me as a customer. And they wrote immediately—I mean, within an hour—and said, what can we do to help you? Blah, blah, blah. That spirit should be prevalent at any college, particularly that’s going to get a lot of low-income students. That’s how they will get more low-income students. So in some areas thinking about students as consumers is OK, but I hope they don’t do it overall. FASKIANOS: OK. I’m going to take the last question for Babafemi Akinrinade: In Washington State, minority students will number white students in a few years. Will the Supreme Court decision impact the efforts of colleges to recruit these minority students, especially as the state is worried about declining birth rates, while other states are poaching students from Washington State. And Babafemi is with Western Washington University. JASCHIK: So it shouldn’t. Look, it’s great if Washington State has great numbers of students. They should shout out to the world. More colleges should go and recruit. That’s just the fact of life. In the United States today, at Harvard—which was in this decision—they are a majority minority institution. So it didn’t really help them out, but it can help—but lots of colleges can recruit students of all kinds, in Washington State and elsewhere. And thanks so much for your invitation to speak today. And I hope you found it useful. FASKIANOS: We did indeed. Thank you very much, Scott Jaschik. I appreciate it. And to all of you for your questions and comments. We enjoyed this conversation. We will be posting the video and transcript online afterwards if you want to review it and share it with your colleagues. You will receive an invitation to our next Higher Education Webinar under separate cover. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow @CFR_Academic on X, formerly known as Twitter, and visit CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org, for research and analysis on global issues. We also have a dedicated series for students and professors, so professors can invite their students to join the Academic Webinar series. And the first one of this semester is next Wednesday at, I believe, 1:00 p.m. So I hope you will join us for that. If you haven’t gotten an invitation, please do email us at [email protected]. Again, thank you all for being with us today. We look forward to your continued participation in our program series. (END)
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