Remarks at Educationusa Forum

Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs 
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Washington, DC
June 29, 2010

Thank you, Marianne, for that kind introduction. And let me also thank Under Secretary Judith McHale for the invitation to speak with all of you.

Before I begin—a disclaimer. I am not an a college admissions specialist—and I don’t presume to know what your jobs are like. But I do know how important it is to our economy to train the brightest minds to tackle the world's biggest challenges.  And in today's shared and seamless global landscape, recruiting the best international talent to study here is critical to achieving that goal.

We know that the most forward-looking and powerful ideas—and the people who develop them—are just as likely to be found in Beijing as they are in Boston.  By attracting the world’s most talented and motivated students to our universities, we build our economic competitiveness, we strengthen our research capacity, and we remain on the forefront of innovations that are critical to the 21st century economy.

Imagine that the international student you accept may one day become a leader in her home country. For many of you, it won’t be too far from the truth. One need only consider that a number of foreign heads of state including--
  • Singaporean President Lee Hsien Loong,
  • former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak,
  • Pakistan's late President Benazir Bhutto,
  • and the Philippine's late President Corazon Aquino –

were all educated in the United States. And when you add the ranks of Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors, CEOs and world renowned academics to the list—the number who have attended college in America grows dramatically.

But whether your students reach success in the boardroom or at the ballot box, the experiences they have at your institutions will result in enduring relationships with our country and our people. They will learn about our culture, our history, our way of life, and our diversity.   If the international students on your campuses come to share these experiences with their families and communities back home, we will have made great headway towards our national security goals.  And these interactions inure to the benefit of American students as well. I'm sure many of you can recall a friendship forged with a roommate, classmate or teammate from overseas.

You can help build bridges of understanding between the foreign students and the Americans whom the students come to know. They will each learn more about themselves through their interactions with the other--not to mention that a student who has been exposed to different cultures and languages is better equipped to compete in the global marketplace.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students around the world eager to study in the United States. In fact, there are so many that education has become our nation’s fifth largest service export. In the last academic year, nearly 700,000 international students studied in the United States and contributed over $17 billion to the U.S. economy.

All of us understand why American colleges are so highly regarded. In addition to the outstanding quality of their facilities, resources, and faculty, American schools provide excellent value for the money. A wide range of tuition fees and living costs, plus some financial help from colleges, make study in the United States affordable for hundreds of thousands of international students each year.  Unfortunately, the programs we sponsor directly at the State Department can reach only a fraction of the students worldwide who aspire to an American education.

But the partnership we are building with you through our EducationUSA network brings a message of hope and opportunity to students around the world that a U.S. education is an attainable dream.   Our challenge at the State Department is to help market over 4,000 higher education institutions in this country to the multitude of applicants each year. But we are prepared to assist you through the many services of EducationUSA which you have heard about at this conference.

We are increasing our marketing budget (within our very limited means) to represent all of U.S. higher education and to promote its quality, diversity and accessibility to prospective international students and their families.  I know I don’t have to sell you on the benefits of internationalizing your campuses. But when you get back to your campuses, if your deans tell you they can no longer afford to have you recruit international students, please tell them that they can’t afford not to.

So I encourage you to reach out to the EducationUSA advisers who are with you here today as well as the many other advisers around the world, to work together to develop an effective recruitment plan that’s right for you.  Before I conclude my remarks, I want to take a moment to recognize 55 institutions—including my own alma mater, Tufts University that provide opportunities to talented international students who otherwise could not have been able to study in the U.S.

At the Department of State we know that the cultural and educational impact of these highly motivated students from truly diverse backgrounds can have an invaluable impact on our campuses and our students.   I know that you heard yesterday morning about a student who had fled war and violence in his home country to become student body president at Lynn University, showing his American peers what democracy means to him. I commend all of these colleges and universities for including international students among the students they support. Your decision to extend a helping hand to an international student -- your commitment to creating opportunities where they previously didn’t exist -- is at the very core of our American values.

I would ask all of you to join me in recognizing the 55 colleges and universities that are receiving Certificates of Appreciation today signed by Secretary Clinton. May I ask the representatives of those institutions to stand and be recognized at this time? It is a privilege to be with you this afternoon as we honor their commitment. Thank you.