Book by Charles Clotfelter
Review By: Deborah L. Wyatt
Culverhouse College of Commerce
University of Alabama

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country,” the most memorable words from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address to our nation on January 20, 1961. Famous words that may haunt top-tier private institutions of higher education here at home because this book revealed statistics showing foreign-born students studying in the U.S., specifically those in the STEM majors, were more likely to return to their home countries to utilize their recent American education to boost their own economy and institutions, and not implement their careers or doctorates here in America to globalize and sustain ours.

If there is ever a time for STEM majors to be included in our elementary and secondary education here at home, then Clotfelter’s findings would have you believe it is now. The author detailed how the U.S. would lose its qualitative edge of STEM majors because foreign-born students were seeking out careers that did not take 8 to 9 years to complete before they could enter the workplace. In turn, more than half of the foreign-born students were including “Business” as part of the double-majors because of its lucrative appeal over all other majors upon graduation. Such surprising turn of events, has changed the mindset of the promising research field of the long-standing STEM majors.

I chose this book with the idea its contents would enlighten Advisors about why American universities maintain such prestigious dominance over international institutions in today’s global economy so we could have a  better understanding of specific populations that attend our universities in large quantities. After the initial chapter, “Storm Clouds for American Higher Education? Is the United States Losing Its Preeminence in Higher Education?” (Clotfelter, 2010, p. 33), this book aimed more for an audience of decision makers rather than Advisors engaging with isolated student populations. At times, the financial formulas are hard to follow, making this book better suited for those higher-level administrative roles such as Faculty Chairs, Deans, Provosts, Presidents, and Chancellors, that implement and sustain such rograms abroad. 

Moreover, as I read through a considerable amount of quantitative statistical data throughout Clotfelter’s eleven chapters, his measurements revealed how American universities were able to sustain their own growth back home by choosing the same behavioral patterns that American multinational corporations (MNC) used when making such “investments” overseas. For example, Coca-Cola is an MNC that “engages in foreign production through its affiliates located in several countries, (ii) exercises direct control over the policies of its affiliates, and (iii) implements business strategies in production, marketing, finance and staffing that transcend national boundaries. In other words, MNCs exhibit no loyalty to the country in which they are incorporated.” (Perlmutter, 1969). Adapting such corporate tactics allows American institutions to continue the cycle of attracting higher level students from abroad to U.S. institutions via federal funding, endowments, and private gifts. In turn, that contributes to staffing higher level faculty with the aid of tuition dollars generated at home to continue any program abroad.

Clotfelter also focused on specific countries that sent students to the U.S. for undergraduate and graduate education. The most populated countries in the world were also the two top leaders with “41% graduate and 46% undergraduate - China and India.” However, it was startling to learn that “South Korea sends the most students per capita to the U.S. more than anywhere else in the world, and they receive half of our Ph.D’s.” Moreover, I learned, “the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia had the greatest representation of doctorates in the United States.”

Clarke, T. (2004).  Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0-8050-7213-6. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inaugural_address_of_John_F._Kennedy#Notable_passages

Perlmutter, H.V. (1969). The Tortuous Evolution of the Multinational Corporation, Columbia Journal of World Business, 9-18pp. Retrieved from http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ355/choi/mul.htm

American Universities in a Global Market. (2010). Book by Charles Clotfelter (Ed.). Review by Deborah Wyatt. University of Chicago Press. 512pp. $75.00 (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-226-11047-9

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