Today I am excited to talk about a growth industry in the U.S. which is seldom spoken about but as of last year generated a trade surplus of over $ 35 billion dollars! A niche service, Education Services dedicated to international students, creates over 450,000 U.S. jobs and contribute more than $43.1 billion to the U.S. economy. The industry is in high demand and far from being at its optimal point. While there is a clear opportunity for financial gain, the focus should be on building closer ties with other countries. Based on the numbers, we have failed to fully integrate and engage our closest neighbor and ally: Mexico. This represents a huge opportunity to work and learn from our neighbor to shape and grow economic growth of the region. Let’s get Mexico more involved!
The Education Service industry is comprised of establishments that provide instruction and training in a wide variety of subjects typically in institutions such as schools, colleges, universities and training centers. Seeing a 3.4% growth between 2016 and 2017, there are over a million international students in the US. Surprisingly a proportionally small number of students come from our neighboring country Mexico.
Today, Mexico has around 16,500 students studying in the U.S. and is ranked 9th in regards to country of origin for international students. The biggest draw for these students is our countries’ strong ties, close proximity, and the prestige of the American higher education system. Not including the social value, students from Mexico contribute $617 million to the U.S. economy.
To provide a point of comparison, China already has over 350,000 students studying in the U.S. and contribute over $12 billion dollars to the U.S. economy. These numbers have only been growing over the years, and the number of students coming from China is expected to grow by 11% over the next four years. They are the largest contributor of international students in the U.S. making up 32.5% of all international students. Mexican students represent about 1.5% of the international student body in the U.S.
So what has been the hold up with Mexico? In 2014, the US-Mexico launched the US-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research (FOBESII) with the goal of expanding opportunities for educational exchanges, scientific research partnerships, and cross-border innovation to help both countries develop the 21st-century workforce for mutual economic prosperity and sustainable social development. However, with only 16,500 Mexicans studying in the U.S. and 5,000 Americans studying in Mexico, the initiative has struggled to reach its desired impact. This is important to note because the benefits of academic exchange programs and international education services aren’t just financial. The US State Department considers student exchange programs a useful tool to build enduring relationships and networks to advance U.S. national interests and foreign policy goals, by advancing our national security and economic interests and have shown to provide a strong return on investment. In its initial signing, over 115 university partnerships were
As an organization that builds bridges of understanding between both the U.S. and Mexico, we are a strong proponent of greater student and professional exchanges between our two countries. For this reason, we have been actively supporting the U.S.-Mexico Economic Partnership Act (HR 1567). The legislation, which already finds itself on the U.S. House floor, “seeks to prioritize and expand educational and professional exchange programs with Mexico.” The bill would build off the progress made over the last few years and strive to increase the supply of international students from both countries. In order to promote a globally competitive region, the U.S. and Mexico must strive to promote the exchange of knowledge and best practices in order to sustain our economies’ innovative and dynamic statuses.
Based on our earlier comparison to China’s number, there is a precedent for being able to significantly increase the number of exchange programs between the U.S. and other countries. Seeing an 11% increase during a four year span from China would be the equivalent of over 9,500 more Chinese students participating in exchange programs with the U.S. We have already experienced the benefits that these exchange programs can have between our countries, and should now focus on building new bridges with close neighbors in order to fully advance our interests in the Western Hemisphere.
Recent achievements such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement are wonderful, but when it comes to winning over the hearts and minds a trade agreement focused solely on goods and intellectual property can only go so far. To generate dynamic economic growth, new ideas must be introduced and exchanged, this can only happen through the exchange of our people. Let us not waste any more time and let’s push for sustainable positive change!
We can grow a neighboring market with just a little more support, and in doing so generate an even greater trade surplus when it comes to our Education Services dedicated to International Students. When successfully done, productive exchange programs can even subsidize the cost of education for domestic users. If you are interested in showing your support for the U.S. Mexico Economic Partnership Act, please reach out so that we may recognize your support.
U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. (2018). China – H.Education and Training. Available: https://www.export.gov/article?id=China-Education-and-Training. Last accessed Nov. 5, 2018.
Martha Sanchez. (2018). Mexico – H.Education and Training. Available: https://www.export.gov/article?id=Mexico-Education-and-Training-Services. Last accessed Nov. 5, 2018.
U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. (2018). Education and Training Services Resource Guide 2018.Available: https://2016.export.gov/industry/education/eg_main_108888.asp. Last accessed Nov. 5, 2018.
United States Department of Labor. (2018). Industries at a Glance: Educational Services – NAICS 61. Available: https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag61.htm. Last accessed Nov. 5, 2018.