How does duty of care extend to American higher education international offices?
“Many students understand that it is expensive in the US, but they struggle to understand how their insurance plan does not protect against the cost of that system”
As students become more mobile, the concept of ‘duty of care’ becomes all the more important. Jeff Foot, executive director of international student insurance provider LewerMark, says educators need a critical eye to assess what plans they have in place when international students face risks they are not accustomed to.
The #youarewelcomehere campaign attempts to soften the swirling rhetoric around the recent executive order travel bans, removal of DACA, increased nationalism, and unease generally around immigration issues. I think international education voices are correct to share competing messages, but a more proactive risk management approach is needed to offer a level of real comfort to current and potential international students.
While I am optimistic international students will still come to the USA, that does not mean international educators and even higher education writ large can be complacent about their role and the scope of responsibility required. However, being proactive international student recruitment/services/affairs requires American-based international educators to concede certain perspectives.
First, according to several measures – but most interestingly visualised in the Vision of Humanity webpage – the US is a risky choice for students. As a result of global tensions, any person from France, Tunisia, or Malaysia will sympathise with an American’s defensive reaction to this statement that others think their own country is dangerous.
Understanding and owning the realisation that potential international students and their families see the US as a risky destination is powerful because now a strategic plan to reduce the exposure and impact of those risks for your students can be developed.
“Does the risk of pickpockets stop people from going to Rome, Italy? No, but you plan for that and go”
In order to create a strategic risk management plan, a quick review of ‘duty of care’ is required. In the international risk management sphere and education abroad communities, organisational liability and pro-active risk management strategies are taken very seriously and legal concepts of duty of care are commonplace conversations.
My question is why that attention to care is not taken with inbound students to a risky international destination for them? What is a suitable risk management plan for universities and colleges actively recruiting students to the United States? What is your duty of care in the recruitment of international students?
Examples of current practice include campus orientation sessions designed to impart knowledge of the campus. Plagiarism sessions, on-campus rules (dry campus, dating norms, Title IX training, etc.), cultural sessions to ease interactions off campus and sessions designed to teach students about getting jobs are examples of risk reduction sessions. Some offices even take up a paternalistic mindset to assist students with tax preparation, legal advice to deal with landlords, services to aid driver’s license acquisition, and so on.
However, a critical eye is needed for international educators to assess what services and communication plans they have in place when international students face risks they are not accustomed to. How do you manage talks about sexual harassment, racism, ethnocentrism, dating, and rape (both as a victim and potential perpetrator)? How do you protect students from gun violence injury? What are the legal implications of a DUI? Why does it cost $10,000 or more to repair a knee injury WITH insurance?
Given I am in the health insurance industry, it is self-serving to talk about the health insurance system but I fully believe many students understand that it is expensive in the US, but they struggle to understand how their insurance plan does not protect against the cost of that system.
“Colleges and universities that are not yet my clients simply seek the ‘best’ plans they know of or the cheapest monthly cost and cross their fingers”
I support a plan that takes away all the first dollar costs. We can debate the type of plan you choose, but taking a stand to protect your students from high costs is needed and working with your risk management office to achieve this protection should be imperative.
US educators who take an objective perspective of the risks this country poses and then state how their institution has systems in place to help them be prepared to handle risk is one concrete way we can be true risk managers for international students and welcome them responsibly to the USA.