The recent increase of foreign students in higher education conflicts with resource budgeting and priorities. Universities are compelled to implement diverse strategies to keep them solvent. Interestingly, one of the responses to increase revenues is to recruit out-of-state students especially international students for higher tuition returns additionally, universities posit internationalization as a necessary component to becoming a “metropolitan research university of distinction” (Task Force 2006, 1). The goal is to elevate its standing in the global market of higher education. However, these efforts compromise the education of foreign students and how thesestudents are taught. By recruiting foreign students, universities transfer both increased costs and intercultural competency onto them. Neoliberal rationality permeates these policies as it “structures and organizes …the action of rulers, but also the conduct of the ruled” (Dardot and Laval 2013, 4). The American Council in Education (ACE) says as much when it states, “Graduates must possess intercultural skills and competencies to be successful in this globalized world” (2011, 3). Students are accountable for their “collection of skills” (Gershon 2011, 539). Thus, students are expected to be multicultural yet be responsible for their own “entrepreneurial virtues” that a globalized world requires. In the case of foreign students, they are expected to be intercultural ambassadors as universities “slowly and steadily shift… its investment toward the higher yielding crop,” that is them (Clawson and Page 2011, 18-19).
Presently, universities project themselves as marketplaces where students can acquire skills to become their “own business” (Gershon 2011, 539). Students are expected to become “global citizens,” therefore, higher education institutions “must commit to helping students achieve these outcomes” (ACE 2012, 3). U.S higher education asserts itself to English as a Second Language (ESL) students as the best option to acquire English as a desirable and marketable skill. This paper suggests that foreign students experience themselves as the newcustomers of culture inthe university marketplace. In short, what effect does the commodification of higher education have in shaping foreign students’ agency?
Currently, universities emphasize the acquisition of a second language as a vehicle for global, social and economic mobility, while foreign students perceive English proficiency as a valuable skill. When recruitinginternational students, universities highlight living in a city where English is the predominant language spoken as an American cultural experience. This suggests foreign students should expect to experience a true cultural experience immersed in a new language. However, the cultural experiences “commonly offered [are] ongoing international festivals or events on campus” (13), in other words, campus life. In addition, the ESL courses are reduced to a service learning program administered by native English-speaking student peers. By offering native undergraduates credit for mentoring in these classes, such as “International Peer Service Learning,” they “assist” ESL students “with linguistic and cultural activities” (FORLNG 123). This is problematic because cultural transference is assumed to just happen in this setting.
Recent research on ESL programs in higher education focus on the pedagogy used to teach them, online, tutors, computer essay-scoring programs, and so on. Therefore, this studyexamines how ESL programs re-shape foreign students expectations of learning outcomes. This project seeks to remedy this gap by conducting open-ended interviews in a semi-structured format to students at Boise State University.
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