Hello and welcome to the 2021 EducationUSA Forum!
I’d like to start by saying thank you.
The pandemic has made welcoming students – especially international students – to our higher education institutions in the United States immensely challenging.
You’ve had to adapt almost everything you do – recruitment, admissions, orientation, housing, and instruction.
You’ve shown remarkable creativity, flexibility, and especially dedication in meeting students’ needs.
So, on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration – and students worldwide – thank you.
We’ve made significant progress in bending the curve of COVID-19 here in the United States, but many countries are still grappling with devastating outbreaks.
That’s why President Biden has made it a top priority to ensure more countries have access to safe, effective vaccines, as fast as possible.
For as long as the pandemic persists, you’ll need to keep adapting, as you’ve shown you can do in the more than 175 countries and territories where EducationUSA works.
You can count on this administration to do everything we can to make your work easier.
We’ve already taken some steps.
We’ve increased our National Interest Exceptions so more international students can get visas.
We’ve made it easier for schools to engage in distance learning.
And we’ve expanded waivers on in-person interviews for certain student visa applicants.
If there are other ways we can support your work, we want to hear them – because it’s strongly in our national interest for the United States to remain the world’s top study destination for international students.
The President has talked about building a foreign policy for the middle class, and our work together is an important part of that effort.
Last year, international students contributed more than $39 billion to the U.S. economy and supported an estimated 410,000 American jobs in cities and towns across the country.
But it’s about more than the bottom line.
Many international students decide to stay here after they finish their education, to start their own businesses or to contribute their talents to American companies and American communities.
That’s in our interest too – the fact that we’re a magnet for so much global talent is a powerful source of economic strength and resilience.
International students bring their perspectives and experiences to our classrooms and campuses.
And that benefits all our students.
Having a greater sense of the interdependence of the global community is a critical part a higher education – especially in the age of COVID-19 and the climate crisis.
And by welcoming international students to the United States, we can share our core values of our democracy, including the free expression of ideas, open and spirited debate, and civic engagement.
As someone who spent my teenage years studying abroad, I know that learning to see the world through the eyes of people from different cultures and countries is something you carry with you for the rest of your life.
I can’t tell you how often I meet foreign politicians, journalists, scientists, human rights defenders, entrepreneurs, and so many others who speak about their transformative experiences studying in the United States.
That’s why continuing to nurture a vibrant community of international students is a foreign policy imperative.
That sentiment is reflected in a joint statement the State Department and the Education Department are issuing today – with the support of the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security.
It underscores our commitment to working across our government – and with partners in higher education, the private sector, civil society, and other sectors – to keep promoting international education in the United States.
If we work together, I’m confident that we’ll not only return to the pre-pandemic levels of international students in American institutions of higher education, but surpass them. That’s good for the American people.
It’s good for the values that matter most to us.
And – I believe – it’s good for people around the world.
Thanks for listening.