Colleges without walls are also colleges without national borders. Professors are beamed in through teleconferencing. Students pursuing degrees online and otherwise are able to establish worldwide networks. As rising numbers of international students enroll in colleges and universities throughout the United States and elsewhere, the buzzword in higher education is "global". Those obtaining a distance learning degree really do come from everywhere.
American colleges and universities during the 2008-2009 academic year saw a record high of nearly 672,000 international student enrollments, according to an annual Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education. Most students hail from India, China and South Korea, and most major in business and management and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies, the report noted.
While a preliminary survey for the 2009-2010 academic year reportedly produced mixed Institute results, the Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that some 3 million study abroad students overall in 2009 is projected to climb to 8 million by 2025. And Ben Wildavsky, who penned the book, "The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World", has likened the worldwide happening to a "free trade in minds" and "a chance for greater intellectual exchange, collaboration, and innovation", according to an Inside Higher Education report.
Global education can also be big business. International students and their families contribute more than $13 billion a year to the American economy, much of it in the form of tuition, the Institute for International Education noted. Students tend to begin their searches for schools based on guidance from family and friends, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report on a spring Going Global conference held in London. Latin American students also look toward publications for assistance, undergraduates in Africa and the Middle East rely on the advice of their professors and graduate students look for quality, reputable programs that best meet their career goals, the Chronicle report noted.
In this high-tech age, students worldwide want responses to inquiries and applications in as little as a day. And Going Global speakers cautioned against viewing international students in this competitive education environment as "cash cows" and, instead, suggested giving them something for their money, according to reports.
American colleges and universities currently boast the largest worldwide share of top researchers and Nobel winners, Wildavsky told Inside Higher Education. The nation also holds the most global college top spots and attracts most of the top international students, he said. And in terms of colleges online, America leads the world in reputation, acceptance, and accessibility, University Business has reported. Students begin participating in international programs as early as high school, University Business writers Howard and Matthew Greene in 2007 noted. Some have lived as expatriates abroad; others are expats in the United States from Asia, Australia, Europe or Africa; and many hail from multinational, multicultural and multilingual families, the men reported.
In pursuing American college degrees online or simply taking classes through colleges online, international students don't have to travel far or worry about passports, visas, I-20 forms or I-94 cards. In many instances, online college tuition in America reportedly costs the same for foreign students as it does domestic students. And where traditional American campuses in the past have attributed international enrollment declines to post-9/11 precautions and student concerns about the H1N1 virus, these issues don't exist for those considering colleges online. International students seeking to enroll in classes offered by American colleges online or to pursue American college degrees online should, however, look for accredited institutions, interactive programs and courses with flexible formats that allow for tending to family and work responsibilities, Hobsons education consultants have advised.
At least one American university since 2001 has actually required that undergraduates take college classes online, in part, so that students can obtain global perspectives from worldwide scholar and practitioner partners, according to the Sloan Consortium. The school's Global Virtual Faculty Program as of spring 2004 included 46 scholars and practitioners from 23 countries who worked with some 900 students, the Sloan Consortium reported.