On Monday, July 26, the U.S. Departments of State and Education issued a joint statement of principles articulating “A Renewed U.S. Commitment to International Education.”
This affirmation of the value and importance of international education, after more than a year of challenges posed to global learning and exchange by the COVID-19 pandemic, is uplifting for SUNY New Paltz and the SUNY system as a whole, and also for the many domestic and international students in our community of scholars.
Below, find commentary on the new joint statement of principles from SUNY New Paltz Center for International Programs Executive Director Beth Vargas.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic of the last year, we have come to recognize that global challenges call for global understanding and global leadership. As we begin a new academic year welcoming students back to campus, I am excited given the renewed U.S. commitment to international education. Together, the U.S. Departments of State and Education pledge to “Incorporate a strong focus on international education as part of the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in order to build back better at home, maintain U.S. global leadership, and promote equitable access to the benefits of international education.” Recognizing that “many of our most pressing challenges are inherently global in scope and impact, and can only be addressed by nations and individuals working together,” we continue to support global learning in the curriculum and through co-curricular activities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy for international educational exchange. According to an Open Doors survey by the Institute of international Education, the total number of international students at U.S. colleges declined by 16% percent, and the number of new international students declined by 43% percent, from fall 2019 to fall 2020.
Study abroad participation also fell nationwide. Like many other universities and systems, SUNY suspended participation in study abroad programs in March 2020 when all students abroad were recalled to the United States, and this suspension continues through the fall 2021 semester.
Despite these challenges, we remain committed to providing access to global learning opportunities for all our students, and will continue to provide these opportunities in online or hybrid formats until we are able to return to pre-pandemic models.
In the coming year, SUNY New Paltz and the Center for International Programs will build on the virtual learning that took place last year. We also look forward to welcoming more than 80 new international students to our campus community this fall.
We continue to find that New Paltz students, across different majors, backgrounds and interests, are eager to travel and engage with other people, cultures and ideas from around the world. The Center for International Programs, and the College as a whole, are committed to creating opportunities for our students to gain a safe and meaningful global education that positions them to address global challenges today and in the future.
Executive Director, Center for International Programs