According to Caroline Casagrande, Deputy Secretary for Academic Programs of the U.S. government, the number of Brazilians in universities in the country grew 12% in the last school year and the idea is to increase even more.
Interview with Caroline Casagrande, Deputy Secretary for U.S. Government Academic Programs
Beatriz Bulla, Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON – The United States wants to welcome more Brazilian students at [U.S.] universities. This is the message that Caroline Casagrande, Deputy Secretary for Academic Programs, at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Education and Cultural Affairs, tries to convey on her visit to Brazil, which began last Saturday, August 24. In an interview with O Estado the day before leaving Washington to come to Brazil, Caroline says the moment of rapprochement between the Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro governments shows an “era of deeper relationships.”
Since 2017, the number of new foreign students coming to the United States had slowed down, but the country remains the main destination when it comes to looking for universities abroad.
The Deputy Secretary minimizes the impact of a more restrictive immigration policy during Trump’s administration on the numbers of students arriving in the country and says Americans have their doors open to place foreigners in universities. According to her, the number of Brazilian students in the United States grew 12% in the last school year.
In order to promote study opportunities for Brazilians in U.S. institutions, the EducationUSA 2019 fair takes place in Brasilia on Wednesday, August 28; and in São Paulo, on Saturday, August 31. Registration is free and is still open via the Internet. The event has taken place already in Rio de Janeiro last weekend.
To O Estado, Caroline Casagrande talks about the opportunities for Brazilians in the United States.
See the main excerpts from the interview:
What is the purpose of your trip to Brazil?
Let’s spread the news, and we’re bringing over 40 colleges and universities, that the United States welcomes Brazilian students, that we want them to study in our classrooms, and the reason I’m going is really to highlight and amplify the reach of this message.
The number of new foreign students in the United States has dropped in recent academic years. What does the State Department identify as the reason for this?
Internationally there is a drop in new students, but overall there has been a 1.5% increase. And the good news is that there was a 12% increase in Brazilian students coming to the United States. We know it’s regional, we know there are a variety of factors, and we know that more Brazilians are coming to the United States each year, which we think is fantastic. When we investigate, often the cost appears as a big factor (to stop making the trip).
One of the things we will talk about is the possibility for students to find a university at any price range in the United States. We think we need to do a better job of spreading this message, that there are different schools and price ranges.
Experts point out that greater restrictions on student visas cause this drop. Do you plan to change this policy?
This is something that is often repeated but is not true. The rejection of international student visas has dropped. We need to intensify the way our message reaches students. In Brazil, we have 38 educational advising centers. In 2018, we opened three more centers and this year we opened one more. These centers are free, and there the student goes through a five-step process.
One of the things we want to do (during this trip) is to let students know how to use one of these 38 centers. Not only have our visa rejection rates dropped globally, they have dropped in Brazil as well. Our numbers in Brazil are fantastic. And we will try to deepen this relationship and bring better numbers next year.
Is it correct to say that Brazil is the focus of academic policy?
Absolutely. We are deepening our relationship with Brazil. I think it is obvious that we are in an era of deeper relations – with the visit of the Secretary (Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State) to Brasilia in January and Bolsonaro’s visit to Washington in March. Brazil is an important partner for the United States. They are the two largest democracies and economies in the hemisphere.
Deepening our relationship in science, in trade – and at the root of all this is education – is a priority. We are investing more resources here, and the signs are: the three new centers opened last year and the new one this year, my trip and the tour with 40 universities. We are absolutely saying: we want Brazilian students here in the US.
Despite the growing number of Brazilians in the United States, we are far from the top of the list of most foreign students. China has the highest percentage. Are Americans concerned about diversifying nationalities in universities?
We look at all the international students. What we intend to do in general is to increase the number of each country. Globally, we have over one million international students in the United States. We have the ability to receive even more. We are trying to increase the numbers of foreign students because they enrich our classrooms.
Everyone understands that when a student comes, he/she receives a global education, makes American friends and becomes a lifelong friend of America. What people don’t know is the flip side: what does this mean to our American students? We cannot send all our Americans to study abroad. We’d love to, but we don’t have the money for it. But we can give them a friend from Brazil, a friend from other countries that allows them to have additional global skills. It is a U.S. goal to have more foreign students.
There is a growing interest in Canada, that has more flexible student visa rules. Do you worry about losing foreign students to the neighboring country? Do you think about making the visa system friendlier?
When we think of international education, we have other nations that are putting additional dollars into scholarships; when we share values with these nations, like Canada, it’s a good thing. Students who come to Canada learn about democracy, rule of law, freedoms, and we think this is a good thing. In fact, we hope our friends and allies have more foreign students. It is not a zero-sum game.
The Bolsonaro government announced this year the budget contingency that targets research and education. Does the US care about this? Will any of your travels address this issue?
My focus will be on students and parents. We cannot comment on what governments do with their budget. What we can say is that the investment that Brazil has made, particularly in our Fulbright program, is extraordinary. They are wonderful partners. The grants we have directly with the United States were not impacted.
See how to attend the EducationUSA fair:
Date: August 28
Time: from 18h to 21h
Address: Meliá Brasil 21
SHS Quadra 06, Set A Lot 01 Block D
Date: August 31
Time: from 14h to 18h
Adress: Hotel Intercontinental
Alameda Santos, 1123, Gardens