IIE Networker - Fall 2009 - (Page 32)

STUDY ABROAD Recent Challenges to Study Abroad in Mexico: Economic Crisis, Security Risks, H1N1 By Thomas Buntru IN THE CONTEXT of student mobil- ity in Mexico, three factors have recently gained growing importance and attention: (1) financial limitations due to the worldwide economic crisis, (2) fear of security risks because of drug related crimes, and (3) health concerns because of the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in the country. These factors all have the potential to impact student mobility to and from Mexico. Economic Crisis The impact of the economic crisis has been felt especially hard in Mexico, with a rise in the unemployment rate, the fall of the stock market, bankruptcies, declining property values, and lower income from exports. This recession has impacted mostly middle-class professionals who usually send their children to high-tuition private universities and encourage them to participate in study abroad programs. Although it is still too early to measure the longrange impact of the economic downturn on study abroad in Mexico, many Mexican universities report enrollment declines in their study abroad programs, particularly summer and short-term programs that are usually offered at additional cost to the students. Participation rates in reciprocal or “tuition-swap” exchanges seem to be less affected. Many universities have implemented budget cuts for international activities and limits on overseas travel. The Mexican government has responded to the crisis by creating tax breaks and incentives as part of a larger economic stimulus plan. Many Mexican universities are considering changes in their student mobility strategies. They are budgeting much more conservatively and are seeking out cheaper study abroad destinations. Many are making great efforts to increase financial aid options for study abroad, not an easy task in the current situation. Another possible response is the participation in consortia that allows for more cost-sharing. Security Risks As far as the security situation in Mexico is concerned, there can be no denying that the incidence of drug-related crimes has increased, but it should also be noted that this drug-related violence is concentrated in a few cities and regions. The Mexican government has made great efforts at enormous costs to combat the drug cartels. Indeed, many observers blame the violent backlash on the success of these measures. Dr. Alan Adelman, the Regional Director of IIE Latin America in Mexico City, says: “I agree with the need to avoid blanket descriptions of Mexico and to contextualize and localize travel advisories. The difference between ‘warnings’ and ‘advisories’ should also be clarified. Based on what I know I would say to anyone, please come to Mexico City, Monterrey, Querétaro, Cuernavaca and many other places in Mexico. The circumstances on the ground are such that ‘something bad’ is unlikely to happen.” According to a survey of AMPEI members, the Mexican Association for International Education, there have been no incidents this year of criminal activities related to drug trafficking or organized crime affecting international students. No on-campus homicides have been reported. Security at Mexican universities is stable and adequate for the normal development of educational activities, including exchange programs and international conferences. Still, quite a number of exchanges, conferences, and reunions have been cancelled because of security concerns, especially by U.S. institutions and associations. This is unfortunate, because these activities of academic cooperation and exchange contribute to a better understanding of these complex security issues. AMPEI encourages all partners of Mexican universities to continue these valuable activities while implementing, at the same time, careful safety measures for all participants. Health Concerns The H1N1 influenza outbreak has had devastating effects on student mobility to and from Mexico. During the height of the influenza in late April, AMPEI conducted a survey among its members. Participating universities reported departure rates of international students as high as 60 percent with an average of 35 percent. Many summer programs for Mexican students abroad, especially in Asia, had to be cancelled. The situation is even worse regarding summer programs for foreign students at Mexican universities. Many foreign universities have cancelled study abroad programs in Mexico in response to the H1N1 influenza. Cancellation rates among AMPEI member institutions range from 50 percent to over 90 percent. This is especially frustrating, considering the vigorous response by the Mexican government which reacted quickly and massively, declaring a national closure of five days. Schools and universities were shut down for ten days. These measures, among others, have been credited with helping to slow the spread of the virus which, in University of Nebraska, Lincoln student Jared Hartman received a Gilman Scholarship to study Spanish and Animal Science at the Autonomous University of Chapingo in Mexico, where he conducted a research project examining the environmental effects on the American Brown Swiss breed, as well as created and implemented a survey for dairy producers in Mexico. 32

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Fall 2009

IIE Networker - Fall 2009
Message from Allan E. Goodman
Public Diplomacy and Academic Exchange: Policy Priorities of the New Administration
Student Mobility Trends in Latin America
Promoting Inclusiveness in Higher Education in Latin America: A Policy Response
IIENetworker University Presidents Interview Series
Student Recruitment in the Caribbean: New Strategies for Cooperation
Bridging Borders: A Project for the Development and Diversification of Higher Learning Institutions in the United States and Haiti
Recent Challenges to Study Abroad in Mexico: Economic Crisis, Security Risks, H1N1
Special Feature: International Education Initiatives in Latin America
New York City and Sao Paulo, Public Policy and Business: A New Dual Degree Partnership
The Browser: Advertisers' Index
IIE Program Profile: The IIE Regional Office for Latin America

IIE Networker - Fall 2009