AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION:

THE UNDER-VALUED EXPORTABLE COMMODITY

Dr. George K. Kostopoulos

Texas A&M International University



ABSTRACT

This paper presents the worldwide existence of an untapped academic market for American Higher Education, emphasizes the comparative advantages American Higher Education has over other, and describes the ease in the exportation, transportation and importation of this 'commodity'. Also presented is the significance of such programs to the American competitiveness in international business and trade. The paper's thesis is that an overseas campus, with a high degree of interaction with the home campus, should be a must for a modern day academic institution, and possibly an accreditation criterion.





INTRODUCTION

While other products or services, through extensive and expensive marketing campaigns, are striving to establish superior reputation in their respective international trade sectors, American Higher Education has for decades earned this distinction, without having in any serious way capitalized on it. Unfortunately, capitalizing on it are international 'entrepreneurs', who, having recognized the opportunity, have already set up tent offering 'American' academic degree programs overseas. These are degree mills neither having a United States home campus, nor abiding by any externally applied standards. Yet, they constitute a lucrative business having students in the thousands who believe that they are getting a bona fide American Higher Education.

Also capitalizing on the lack of English language Masters Degree Programs in continental Europe are many United Kingdom universities, which although reputable, they are franchising their programs to enterprising local organizations. Students buy these programs for sums in the order of $10,000, equivalent, and take exams when they are ready. By American terms, the best these programs can be called is "degree by correspondence", since no classes are being held and the program progresses at the student's pace. The students do settle for it in lieu of anything better.

Obviously, a tremendous opportunity exists, with significant academic and economic rewards, not to mention the subsequent cultural, political and trade benefits, for true American overseas extension programs and campuses. By offering quality education, especially higher education, the American Programs will be serving an academic purpose, while projecting the 'good' America. These Programs in addition to their interdisciplinary components, they should also have an international component emphasizing the global community concept (Parhizgar 1992).

American Higher Education, under the influence and support of the various industries it services, and under the watch of the respective academic accrediting agencies, lives in a state of permanent evolution with continuous improvements in the offered curricula, teaching methods and laboratories. On the other hand, most foreign universities are academically and educationally stagnating under archaic academic and administrative structures that stifle modernization, despite faculty recommendations. While there is very little American Higher Education can do for these institutions, there is a lot it can do for their students.

AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION:INFRASTRUCTURE FOR INTERNATIONAL MARKETING

Successful competition in international business and trade undoubtedly encompasses a wide variety of factors. However, a very important factor, if not the most important, is the human factor. Many things have been said about the 'cultural' preparation necessary of American businessmen, or professionals, prior to an overseas trip. The importance for American-international businessmen to be familiar with the local customs and business practices has been repeatedly stretched, and such familiarity is undoubtedly a must, and the need for such preparatory enculturation is in no way being underestimated. However, it must be emphasized that it is only one half of the total story. The other half is the foreign buyers' American enculturation. That is, their conscious and subconscious level of acceptance of American products and services, as well as their formal or informal exposure to the American culture.

Before going to harvest we must first go, or have someone else gone, and plant seeds. To harvest in the international market we need to first plant seeds, in this case the seeds are the American overseas educational programs. The educational programs abroad are the plantations that will keep on producing for years to come. They will, undoubtedly, produce knowledgeable and competent local technocrats or businessmen (Carrington, 1994). In addition, and most important, they will produce professionals who will complement the international enculturation of the Americans doing business abroad. The educational programs abroad will not produce 'Americans', neither is this their intent. What they will produce will be bridges into the various business and trade sectors where the American wants to enter and play by the regional competition rules.

An American-international oil and finance tycoon, past and gone, name irrelevant, having recognized the need for such bridges into foreign governments, built his own university, here in the United States, exclusively for foreigners interested in public administration. This can be one way of creating a personal 'foreign legion' around the globe. Now, another one, who aspires to fit the former's shoes, and along a similar thinking is financing, or rather investing in, the American University of Bulgaria.

With the tearing down of the political and trade barriers, around the world, the need for increased American competitiveness becomes more and more evident. While such competitiveness has numerous fronts - technology, quality, price, delivery, etc. - most of them can be effectively 'confronted' at home, with the exception of the most critical one, the human factor. The human factor has to be confronted abroad, and this is where American international marketing needs to enhance its strength.

In today's highly competitive world markets good products, services and ideas, do not, anymore, sell themselves. They need to be marketed and be sold. Americans will have to transact business in economic systems, which they will never fully understand and in which they will never be fully accepted. Yet, with the availability of a favorable and understanding business infrastructure successful business will be transacted.

Many times American businessmen go abroad, highly optimistic, holding the key to the solution of an important overseas problem, only to return unsuccessful. The reason was inaccessibility to the lock, and not that the key was not needed, in most cases it was desperately needed.

For the American businessman the United States Consulate, within its means, may be a good source of information and provider of local contacts, but an American educational overseas program, having grown with time into an international institution of its own, and having blent into the local society, will be able to easily open doors and create bridges, because its graduates will eventually be in every sector of the business and government.

It is not enough for the American businessmen to know the overseas culture, the American culture must be equally known to their overseas business counterparts. This is where the American overseas Higher Education Program comes into play, to create a business network infrastructure.

AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION:

AN INDUSTRY FOR INTERNATIONAL DELIVERY OF QUALITY EDUCATION

Product competition in the international marketplace can be very tough, especially when the issue of the country of origin is irrelevant. In Asia, for example, the decision in buying nails is hardly affected by the country of origin. Albanian nails will be undoubtedly preferred over the American ones, if the price is lower and perceived quality are about the same. There is hardly any subjective factor in this decisions, or in decisions on similar products. In this case, the "Made in the USA" does not play any role.

The same rationale holds in decisions regarding purchasing an automobile. To the European there is practically no difference between the American, the Japanese or the European cars, that is derived merely by virtue of the country of origin. On the other hand, in the area of fashion clothing, the country of origin does influence the buyer. In Europe, again, Italian and French clothing are perceived of being of high style, favorably competing against clothing from other countries.

Similarly, in the entertainment area, a European viewer, generally speaking, prefers an American movie to a non-American one. This preference is supported by the fact that European governments have repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, tried to force on European television stations time quotas for broadcast of European productions.

The above are stated to support the principle that for certain products the country of origin, indeed, carries an aura that makes the product easier to sell. Consequently, the product provider may cash-in on that aura, without necessarily lowering the product's price.

While the above may sound like motherhood-and-apple-pie, there is an American product, which despite its high marketability abroad, it is hardly visible in the overseas markets. To acquire that product, interested foreigners come to the United States by the thousands annually (Almanac 1995). Most of them would not even consider another country's similar product, regardless if it were less expensive, or even free.

The implied American product is Higher Education, especially Graduate Higher Education. There is an absolute need around the globe for practical Higher Education that provides knowledge which is directly applicable upon graduation. Something that is not available in most foreign universities. The built-in hindrance in foreign universities is that they are state institutions, direct extensions and replicas of their respective government bureaucracies.

In many foreign universities, every memo, even the intra-departmental ones, is given a protocol number and is permanently recorded in the department's grand register. Making changes in such institutions is close to impossible and by the time some modernization has been implemented, the world has turned many times around the sun, and the implemented technologies and ideas have become obsolete. The proximity of a dynamic overseas American Graduate Program to such institutions will definitely help the students as well the institutions themselves. American educational programs abroad will, also, result in increased international student presence in the American campuses, which contributes to the international enculturation of the American student population (Goodman, 1996).

The international commodity called American Higher Education needs no U.S. Department of Commerce export license, there are no quotas as to how many should be educated, neither is there a transportation component, and should there be one the INTERNET can meet the need. As for the other side, while there are expected formalities, there is no need for an import license, neither are there duties applied onto the imported knowledge.

THE IMPLEMENTATION

There is no formula for the implementation of American Higher Education Programs abroad. However, a plan can be developed based on the targeted geographical area and on the American university's resources and objectives. Considering that state universities constitute the majority of the American university population, coupled with the fact that they form Systems (the California State University System, the University of California System, and the like), a good approach might be for each System to pursue the establishment of an overseas Program, with unrestricted credit transferability within the System. This way the System's students will be able to attend courses abroad, as well as overseas students will be able to continue their studies at any of the System's universities without credit loss.

An additional advantage to having a University-System overseas Program, rather than a single university's Program, is that the Program will have a larger faculty pool to draw from. Although one approach does not necessarily preclude the other.

CONCLUSION

Unlike other countries the United States is an international country, consisting of people from all over the world, and having interests all over the world. Consequently, there is a need for a worldwide welcome. American Higher Education abroad, in addition to being a financially viable activity in itself, it also creates bicultural infrastructures - the red carpet needed for successful American business presence abroad.

REFERENCES

Almanac (1995). The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 1, 1995.

Carrington, Lucy (1994). "Competent to Manage?", International Management, p. 17, September 1994.

Goodman, A. E. (1996). "What Foreign Students Contribute" The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A52, February 16, 1996.

Parhirgar, K. D. (1992). "Evolutionary Visions of the Nature of 21st Century Businessmen and The Emergence of Strategic Business Education Toward Polycentric, Regiocentric, and Geocentric Curriculum Designs" The New World Order and Trade and Finance, Vol. V, pp 1197-1222.

















This paper appears in the Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the International Trade and Finance Association held in May 22-25, 1996, in San Diego, CA.