Today, we launch International Education Week with the release of the 2010 Open Doors annual report on international student mobility.
International education is an economic and strategic imperative for the United States. The Open Doors report reaffirms America as the preferred destination for international students looking for an outstanding education. International enrollments in U.S. higher education institutions are at the highest levels ever.
The benefits of these exchanges can be seen both at home and abroad. In the last academic year alone, nearly 700,000 international students attended our colleges and universities adding nearly $20 billion to the American economy. And after their studies here, these students return home to become leaders who understand our society and values. In turn, as Americans study abroad in a growing number of countries, they are better prepared to compete in a global economy.
Last week, in speaking about exchanges, our Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, said it best, "Diplomacy does not just happen between government officials. It also happens between individuals, through people to people connections and student exchanges. These are some of the most important people to people connections we can have. For hundreds of thousands of students each year, exchanges promote mutual understanding and bring people of different nations together to share ideas and compare values. They also nurture leadership skills that prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century. The Department of State remains committed to these exchanges and we strongly support expanding study abroad opportunities to a diverse range of communities so that talented students around the world can tap into the power and possibility of international exchanges."
During International Education Week, the State Department is highlighting the importance of study abroad opportunities, like the Gilman Scholarship for students from diverse backgrounds. Because of limited financial resources, these students have often not taken part in exchange programs. Earlier this morning, I met with five Gilman Scholars, who studied in Egypt, India, Japan, Jordan and Spain. Please stand and be recognized.
This scholarship, named for the distinguished former New York Congressman Benjamin Gilman, supports study abroad for American undergraduates. Since its inception in 2001, nearly 8,800 scholarships have been awarded to students representing 894 colleges and universities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They studied in 116 countries world worldwide.
Participation in the Gilman program from African-American, Latino, and Asian communities is two to three times greater than other U.S. study abroad programs. Nearly half of the Gilman scholars are first-generation college students. I know how important this is; I was the first person in my family to go to college.
I also met with five "Opportunity" scholars from Brazil, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, and Yemen who studied biometrics, biology, engineering and international relations. Please stand and be recognized. This program provides talented international students with a way to apply for and pursue a college education in America.
Going forward, the Department of State will continue to seek ways to increase these vital people to people exchanges.
I invite colleges, universities and community colleges throughout the United States to join our efforts.
Encourage your students to apply for Fulbright and Gilman scholarships. Support your faculty members in applying for Fulbright awards. Sign up to host visiting scholars.
Connect with our global EducationUSA advising network. These advisors are eager to create strategies to recruit international students and to develop study abroad programs.
This is an opportunity for American and international students to work, study, and learn together.