By Leslie Corn

Advocacy | #ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

On March 8-9, approximately 120 representatives from over 40 sponsor organizations gathered in Washington, D.C. to advocate for U.S. State Department exchange programs. The Alliance for International Exchange facilitates Advocacy Day annually; the 2017 event was the largest gathering to date.

The schedule featured educational sessions, messaging training, networking opportunities, and a Congressional Reception. The culminating event occurred when participants visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

There were various objectives for the congressional office visits, but ultimately participants asked elected officials to support and protect Department of State exchange programs.

Each year, over 300,000 exchange visitors come to the U.S. on privately funded exchange programs, representing 200 countries; U.S. Department of State provides funding for an additional 55,000 exchange participants. The U.S. needs both federally and privately-funded programs to have a comprehensive, balanced approach to international exchanges. Conversely, over 313,00 Americans study abroad for academic credit and 10,000+ Americans travel abroad as exchange participants (source: Department of State).

J-1 cultural exchange programs serve as a public diplomacy tool that supports U.S. national security, strengthens the U.S. economy, and increases mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations. Additional program benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Exchanges help the U.S. engage with countries key to U.S. interests. Exchanges target demographics key to U.S. foreign policy priorities (U.S. Department of State).
  • 565 Current & former heads of foreign governments are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 82 Nobel Prize winners are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 58 ambassadors to the United Nations are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 89 members of U.S. Congress are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • Exchanges bring resources to U.S. communities. International students contributed 32.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported over 400,000 jobs during the 2015-2016 academic year (NAFSA).
  • Over 1.6 million hours of community service were completed by exchange participants and U.S. hosts (source: U.S. Department of State Evaluations).
  • 94% of students from Muslim-majority countries reported having a deeper, favorable view of American culture after their year in the U.S (U.S. Department of State evaluation of the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program).
  • A review of 29 reports on public diplomacy revealed that the most common recommendation was to increase funding for, and opportunities to engage in, exchange programs (Congressional Research Service [CSR] Review).
  •  EVP exchanges occur at virtually no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • U.S. Ambassadors consistently rank exchange programs among the most useful catalysts for long-term political change and mutual understanding.

To join CENET and our colleagues in our advocacy efforts, please email or call the CENET office: cenet@cenet.org or 573-335-7111.

Thank you to Mark Taplin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Kevin Saba, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, for participating in the Congressional Reception; thank you to their Department of State colleagues for attending as well. Special thanks to the offices of Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Claire McCaskill, Representative Smith, Representative Long, and Senator Alexander for meeting with the CENET staff to discuss the positive impact of international exchange programs. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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