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EnglishUSA advances sector-specific recommendations for federal policy makers

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • The peak body for the US ELT sector has added its voice to a growing chorus of recommendations for US policy makers
  • Its recommendations revolve around visa processing for ELT students as well as related reporting on foreign enrolments in the US
  • But the association has also raised the important question of work opportunities for international students in the US

The EnglishUSA board recently ratified a series of five policy recommendations for US government agencies. The peak body’s recommendations were in turn presented at the EnglishUSA Stakeholders Conference 2022 earlier this month, and they follow a pattern of similar position statements by peak bodies in the US this year.

Perhaps the most prominent of those is NAFSA’s Recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration, a series of positions for which EnglishUSA also reiterated its support at the recent conference.

The US remains the only major global study destination without a coordinated national strategy for international education. And the backdrop for much of this recent policy activity is the July 2021 joint statement from the US Departments of Education and State that staked out a renewed focus on international education on the part of the US federal government. This was followed in December 2021 by a call from several leading higher education groups for the US government to partner with higher education stakeholders “to enact policies and take coordinated action to support greater international student enrolment.”

Noticeably absent from that December 2021 statement was the country’s English Language Teaching (ELT) sector, a gap that has now been remedied in part by EnglishUSA’s sector-specific recommendations for federal agencies. “Advancing international education priorities in the US includes a strong commitment to policies and regulations that support English language study in the US and would require reaffirming a dedication to English language study in the US through administrative and congressional action,” says the association.

The five specific recommendation set out by EnglishUSA are as follows.

  1. That the Department of State advise Consular Affairs officers that student visa applications should not be refused on the grounds that the student intends to enrol in an English language training programme.

“English language programme administrators continue to hear reports from students that have been denied an F-1 visa specifically because they are planning to attend an English language school or programme,” explains EnglishUSA. Essentially, the group is recommending that consular officers focus on evaluating whether or not the applicant meets the requirements of a bona fide student, while leaving decisions around plan of study and English language proficiency to the student and their intended institution or school.

  1. That the Department of Homeland Security include ELT student data in its periodic SEVIS by the Numbers reports.

EnglishUSA points out as well that, while “[ELT study] is included as an election for an I-20, along with all other education levels identified in SEVIS”, language programme enrolments are nevertheless omitted from the SEVIS reports, and that the department should “identify the number of Language Training students in SEVIS by the Numbers as they do with the other education levels.”

The omission as it currently stands means that tens of thousands of ELT programme enrolments are not reflected in this important statistical report. There were roughly 80,000 foreign students enrolled in US ELT programmes in 2019, and just under 40,000 in 2021.

  1. That the Department of Homeland Security include country and education level data in its reports on entry/exit overstay rates.

“EnglishUSA member programs are equally concerned about high overstay rates and potentially fraudulent applicants,” says the association’s statement. “Our members work to identify and admit legitimate students during the admissions process. To better understand the connection between language training students, immigrant intent, and overstay rates, the DHS report on Entry/Exit Overstays should identify F visa overstays by education level and include Language Training, along with Secondary, Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate levels, to help schools further their efforts to identify and dissuade fraudulent applications.”

  1. That the Department of Commerce provide financial resources for all states to be represented by the Study State Consortia and encourage English language programmes to join.

“With 18 states still lacking (or having lost) the leadership of a state consortia, national efforts to enhance the US international competitiveness and economic development are hindered,” adds EnglishUSA. “A national international education strategy needs to include financial state support for all state consortia.”

  1. That the Department of Homeland Security permit F-1 students, including those enrolled in English language programmes, to work during their studies in the US.

EnglishUSA argues that the lack of work opportunities for international students hinders the international competitiveness of the US as a study destination, but also that such a change in policy “would contribute to greater diversity in sending countries and income levels of students, [and help] address workplace shortages in the US.”

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