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U.S.-Mexico Academic Mobility


In May 2013, Presidents Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto initiated the High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) to coordinate Mexican and American economic strategies and promote growth, job creation and global competitiveness in both countries. The areas of cooperation between Mexico and the United States through the HLED fall under the following broad categories: 1) promoting competitiveness and connectivity, 2) fostering economic growth, productivity, entrepreneurship and innovation, and 3)  partnering for regional and global leadership” (The White House).

In addition to the HLED, the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research (FOBESII) promotes the exchange of students between Mexico and the United States. Despite its proximity and the size of its population, Mexico sends only 14,000 students on average to study in the U.S. per year. Likewise, the United States sends only 4,000 students to study in Mexico per year. Mexico ranks ninth in the world among countries that send students to the U.S., behind countries like South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, which are all much farther away and have significantly smaller populations. For American students studying abroad, Mexico is only the 13th most popular destination in the world and ranks third among countries in Latin America, after Costa Rica and Argentina (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores).

Two important components of FOBESII’s efforts to increase student exchange between the two countries are Mexico’s Proyecta 100,000 and the United States’ 100,000 Strong in Latin America. The goal of Mexico’s Proyecta 100,000 is to increase the number of Mexican students studying in the United States to 100,000 per year and boost the number of American students studying in Mexico to 50,000 per year by 2018. America’s 100,000 Strong in Latin America has the more diffuse goal of sending 100,000 American students to study in Latin American countries per year, and vice versa (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores). What these two initiatives and their coordination under FOBESII show is that both Mexico and the United States recognize that collaboration in higher education, research and innovation are crucial to making both countries more competitive in the global economy.

Under this framework, the Mexico Center, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, gathered and analyzed data on Mexican students studying in the United States, with the objective of examining the U.S. and Mexico higher education mobility framework and creating an interactive online database that maps and profiles Mexican students studying in the U.S.

Interactive Database and Online Map

The interactive online map and graphs examine trends in Mexican students studying the United States, using data from 1999 to 2014 acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Future requests will keep this resource up to date. The data is organized geographically, categorized by state, city and campus in order to examine the trends at various levels.

The following interactive database below contains a project overview and three slides of visual data. The first slide displays where Mexican students in the United States are pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees (BMD), as well as what degrees are being pursued. It includes a graph that shows the growth of Mexican students in the United States from 1999 to 2014. It also features a graph that shows how many students are in various different majors, a table listing the schools students attended and a map displaying the locations of the campuses across the country.  

The second slides breaks down the growth of Mexican students traveling to the United States according to whether they are studying STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) or non-STEM fields, the level of the degrees they are pursuing, what regions of the country they’re going to, and gender.

Finally, the third slide focuses on the distribution of Mexican students throughout the United States. It includes a chart that shows student distribution by region, a graphic illustrating it by state and a map that defines the different regions. We hope this data and our report can help answer questions regarding Mexico’s efforts to send its students to the United States and bring back the skills, knowledge and ideas that they acquire during their studies abroad.

Mexico Center interns Raul DeLira and Thomas Hsaio and research analyst Pamela Cruz created this interactive online map in collaboration with director Tony Payan. The Mexico Center thanks Dylan McNally, Lisa Guáqueta and the Rice GIS/Data Center, especially Jean Aroom, for their contributions to this project.


"Strengthening ties between Mexico and the United States through education"

This blog examines trends in Mexican students’ academic travel to the United States and evaluates Mexico’s progress toward its goal of sending 100,000 students to study in the U.S. per year. Failure to achieve this goal would undermine the country’s commitment to strengthening its economic and intellectual ties with the United States, as well as impair the success of its own reforms and initiatives.

U.S.-Mexico Academic Mobility: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities (2009-2014)

This study highlights areas where the U.S.-Mexico higher education mobility framework is strong and others where there is much to improve. Government, industry and other private partners must work together with higher education institutions to reverse the region’s downward trend of academic mobility. Collectively, leadership from within the higher education community along with partners in industry, government and the philanthropic community must create a framework for higher education mobility that is voluntary and flexible over time and that incentivizes investments that support long-term bilateral engagement. 

U.S.-Mexico Academic Mobility: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

This issue brief focuses on academic mobility as critical for robust collaborations in education, research and innovation between the U.S. and Mexico. Governments in both countries, in cooperation with nongovernmental actors, should provide a framework to develop mechanisms that generate and sustain a meaningful exchange of students, faculty, and staff from educational institutions at all levels of post-secondary education.