Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation

Informational Hearing on California’s Educational Exchange Programs with Mexico

Monday, May 6, 2013 – California State Capitol, Room 2040, Sacramento, CA

Testimony by:

Professor Armando Vazquez-Ramos, Coordinator

California-Mexico Project, CSULB Chicano & Latino Studies Department

Good afternoon and thank you for the invitation to present my testimony today at this timely and important hearing. My name is Armando Vazquez-Ramos, and as the founder and Coordinator of the California-Mexico Project, I have taken students and faculty to study in Mexico since 1996. I also worked in the CSU Chancellor’s Office of International Programs for almost 3 years in the mid-1990s, and I have taught in the CSU Long Beach Chicano and Latino Studies department for over 15 years.

I believe that today’s hearing ideally coincides with President Obama’s initiative on bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico on higher education, innovation and research, and creates a great opportunity for California to lead the way as the policies and programs of this effort are shaped over the next few months.

I have been pursuing a similar path with the new federal government under President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration, and anticipate securing funding through the Mexicans Abroad Institute (Instituto para Mexicanos en el Exterior, or IME) to establish a graduate-level California-Mexico Becas Program based on the commitment by the PRI’s Becas para Aztlan (BPA) scholarships program during the decade of the 1970’s, when graduate studies in various fields were made available for Chicano students due to the lack of access in U.S. higher education.

In contrast, given the demographics of California 40 years later, today the state’s population is 39% White and 39% Latino, and the CSU’s Latino enrollment is over 30% system-wide (over 120,000 students !). To wit, I can attest that at my campus there are approximately 11,000 Chicano/Latino students, with about 70% being of Mexican-origin. Moreover, the K-12 California public schools enrollment is close to 60% Latino, and by the end of this year, Latinos will be the largest ethnic group in the state’s population.

This is not only a dramatic shift in the make-up of the state’s population, it is also represents that Latinos are a significant human resource that could be critically important to the economic future of the California-Mexico region.

Consequently, in my opinion, the challenge for the Golden State and for Mexico becomes how can we jointly plan for the future and develop policies and programs that reflect the impact of this demographic reality, considering that Mexico is California’s #1 business partner and that preparation of the workforce is crucially important to the economic future of the region.

To this end, in 2008, Assemblymen Jose Solorio and Kevin De Leon sponsored ACR-146 (Download File PDF 03) to recognize the CSULB California-Mexico Project and ordered the California Research Bureau to conduct the study published as “The CRB Report on California-Mexico Study Abroad Programs” (Download File PDF 04).

Thus, ACR-146 resolved,

1. “That the Legislature of the State of California supports the California-Mexico Project’s continuing effort to increase the mobility and exchange of faculty and students between California’s and Mexico’s institutions of higher education”; and,

2. “that the Legislature of the State of California requests the California Postsecondary Education Commission and the California Research Bureau to assess and determine the current number of faculty and students exchanged between California’s and Mexico’s institutions of higher education”; and

3. “that the Legislature of the State of California consider policies and programs that will enhance the mobility and exchange of faculty and students between California’s and Mexico’s institutions of higher education, given the demographic and educational needs of the State of California in the 21st Century”.

The CRB’s report confirmed that there was a very low and limited amount of faculty and student exchange between California and Mexico, and I submit that 5 years after the study we have an even more disproportionate and lower amount of academic exchange.

Undoubtedly, since 2008 we have witnessed a decrease in California-Mexico educational exchange due the CSU’s ban on travel to Mexico and the economy’s downturn. And until last October’s historical visit to Mexico by your committee, there has been a lack of interaction between policymakers on both sides.

But what is most important today is the opportunity that lies ahead, and the leadership that this committee can provide to develop a comprehensive and long-term set of policies that reflects the importance of the California-Mexico relationship in the 21st century, for a region that is already one of the most productive in the world.

In conclusion, I would like to recommend the following for your consideration:

1. That this committee leads the way for California to become fully involved in President Obama’s Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research (Foro Bilateral sobre Educación Superior, Innovación e Investigación) introduced during his visit to Mexico this month;

2. That this committee host a comprehensive conference on California-Mexico Policy and Higher Education Issues, to address collaboration on education, health, the environment, emergency preparedness, transportation, water, and many other relevant public policy issues;

3. That this committee invites the IME and the Mexican Senate’s Foreign Relations Commission on North America that hosted our dinner meeting last October 2, 2012 in Mexico City, for the proposed conference above;

4. That this committee recommends a 1-to-1 exchange of faculty and students between California and Mexico’s colleges and universities, to eliminate the economic barrier that out-of-state tuition represents, as an investment in the future preparation of the region’s workforce.

I thank you again for the opportunity to testify before you today and I stand prepared to provide this committee with an extensive network of institutional and academic contacts that I have developed over many years of promoting closer ties between California and Mexico.

CSU chancellor removes study-abroad to Mexico ban

By Elizabeth Schmidt, CSULB Daily 49er, Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013

After an almost two-year ban on study abroad programs in Mexico, Cal State University Chancellor Timothy P. White has decided to resume the program for 2013-14, according to Erik Fallis, a CSU spokesman. According to Fallis, a CSU executive decision in 2007 prohibited study abroad programs in areas included in the U.S. State Department Travel Warning but allowed the chancellor to make exceptions.

“The State Department issued such a warning in 2010, specific to certain areas in Mexico,” Fallis said. “Some programs outside that area continued to operate under an exception. In 2011, as the violence spread and became more shocking, most programs in Mexico ceased operations. This included the system program at Queretaro.”

Fallis said that in 2010, the warning listed six cities: Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterey and Matamoros. The three states mentioned were Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua. “At that time, the system program at Queretaro continued, as did several campus programs,” Fallis said. “The exceptions allowed programs to continue operation.”

According to Fallis, in 2012, the State Department expanded the amount of information in its warning and provided a more differentiated list of danger zones within Mexico, including some areas listed with “no advisory is in effect.” Fallis said this prompted the CSU to request an outside risk analysis, which staff compiled into a summary report and allowed the chancellor to use available information and make case-by-case decisions on exceptions for study abroad programs. “Queretaro will now resume as a system-wide program,” Fallis said. “Campuses do not opt in, but CSU students will have the ability to apply when the program is prepared to take new enrollment. This is similar to the system program in Haifa, Israel, which resumed after receiving an exception in 2011.”

According to Sharon Olson, Cal State Long Beach director of education abroad in the Center for International Education, about 700 students study abroad each year and there has been interest in students wanting to study abroad during the ban.

Cecilia Fidora, CSULB assistant director of education abroad, said that students can apply to study abroad in Mexico by April 9; financial aid applies, and the estimated cost is $16,540 for the year. “There will be a pre-departure orientation with emphasis on health and safety [which] will be held May 11 at [Cal State University Northridge],” Fidora said. Fidora said that there are currently no students on the list for studying abroad at the Queretaro campus.


March 07, 2013

For Immediate Release
March 6, 2013


SACRAMENTO, CA – The California State University (CSU) announced today that it is changing its existing ban on education abroad and academic exchange programs with Mexico, in response to inquiries from Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez and State Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation.

In a September 27 letter to the Senate President pro Tem and the Assembly Speaker, CSU Chancellor Emeritus Charles Reed announced that he had directed his staff to “begin review of the current situation in Mexico and its potential effects on [CSU] students.” In a letter released today by Chancellor Timothy White to the legislative leaders, Chancellor White announced that his office will, “evaluate, on a case-by-case basis, requests for student programs and academic-based travel in Mexico to areas that do not have an advisory in effect.”

Chancellor White’s announcement comes on the heels of a September 11 hearing of the Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation, where Correa inquired about CSU’s existing policy. Following that hearing, Correa helped draft a letter, which was signed by the Senate President pro Tem and the Assembly Speaker on September 25, asking that the existing ban be reevaluated.

“This is a turning point for our state’s academic system as we now can begin to partner with countries across the globe. I want to thank President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez for their leadership on this issue and for making educational exchange programs between the U.S. and Mexico a priority,” said Correa.

“Millions of U.S. citizens, including students from other public and private universities, safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day,” said Correa. “I am very encouraged that CSU, by changing its policy, has opened the doors to allow our students and future leaders to pursue opportunities to better understand the U.S. and Mexico's shared heritage and culture,” he added.

Correa’s interest in reexamining the travel ban was prompted after receiving a copy of a letter from U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne addressed to Chancellor Emeritus Reed, in which the Ambassador encouraged the CSU to lift its existing travel ban, which was enacted by executive order of the Chancellor in 2007, amid concerns over the safety and security of CSU students. Yet, since February 2012, the Department has revised its Travel Warning policy relative to Mexico and now encourages travelers to reference a state-by-state assessment of security conditions, which are divided into northern and southern regions.

"We must remain vigilant and do everything we can to ensure the safety of our students. The updated Travel Warning regarding Mexico allows for a regional assessment of the feasibility of exchanges and also serves to better ensure the wellbeing of our traveling students" added Correa. "As California's number one trading partner, Mexican states should be considered on an individual basis.”


Universitarios de California ya pueden ir a México

POR: Araceli Martínez Ortega

03/10/2013 | La Opinión

CSU levanta el veto a sus estudiantes para realizar viajes de estudio a México

SACRAMENTO.- La Universidad Estatal de California (CSU) levantó la prohibición para que sus estudiantes puedan ir a México y participar en programas y viajes de estudio, establecida para el ciclo escolar 2011-12 a consecuencia de una alerta de violencia emitida por el Departamento de Estado.

Al parecer, el anuncio fue en respuesta a la presión ejercida por los líderes de la legislatura, Darrell Steinberg del Senado, John Pérez de la Asamblea y el presidente del Comité del Senado especializado en la cooperación California-México, el senador demócrata de Santa Ana, Lou Correa.

En septiembre, el rector emérito de CSU, Charles Reed respondió en una carta a los líderes que había ordenado a su personal comenzar a revisar la situación actual en México y el potencial impacto en los estudiantes.

"Evaluaremos caso por caso las solicitudes de los programas estudiantiles y académicos basados en las áreas de México que no tengan una alerta de viaje en vigor", dijo Reed en la carta dirigida a los legisladores. Y prometió una respuesta para este mes.

Mike Uhlenkamp, portavoz de (CSU) confirmó el levantamiento de la proscripción de viajes a México.

"Lo más importante para nosotros es la seguridad de los estudiantes pero tampoco queremos privarlos del valor de la educación en el extranjero. Así que se evaluará cada solicitud de viaje presentada", precisó.

El senador Correa dijo que está muy animado con el cambio de política y que se hayan abierto las puertas para permitir a los estudiantes y futuros líderes para perseguir oportunidades para entender mejor que Estados Unidos y México comparten una herencia y cultura.

"La advertencia de viaje actualizada de México permite una evaluación regional sobre la viabilidad de los intercambios y asegurar el bienestar de nuestros estudiantes viajeros", advirtió el legislador.

"Debido a que California es su socio número uno, los estados mexicanos deben ser considerados de forma individual", completó.

Correa fue motivado por la carta del embajador de Estados Unidos en México, Earl Anthony Wayne dirigida al rector emérito Reed, en la que lo animaba a levantar la proscripción establecida mediante una orden ejecutiva en 2007.

No es la primera vez que por razones de seguridad, CSU cancela los viajes de estudio a otros países. Mantuvo cancelados sus programas de estudio en Israel por casi una década, desde 2002, debido a preocupaciones de seguridad. Los reinstaló en diciembre de 2011.

El sistema de la Universidad Estatal de California es el más grande de la nación con 23 campus y 427,000 estudiantes.

"Es muy buena oportunidad para que los estudiantes puedan aprender de México, Y muchos son latinos que podrían ir a ver dónde nacieron sus papás o ellos mismos a través de estos viajes de estudio", comentó Pedro Ramírez, vicepresidente de asuntos legislativos de la Asociación de Estudiantes de la Universidad Estatal de California

Líderes piden a CSU reanudar viajes de estudios a México

POR: Araceli Martínez Ortega /

09/28/2012 | La Opinión

El presidente de CSU responde que los aprobará caso por caso en 2013…

SACRAMENTO.- Los líderes legislativos de California, Darrell Steinberg del Senado y John Pérez de la Asamblea, pidieron al presidente de la Universidad Estatal de California (CSU) Charlees Reed, reinstalar los programas y viajes de estudio en México suspendidos a consecuencia de la violencia.

La cancelación de los programas y viajes de estudio fue hecha luego de una advertencia de viaje emitida por el Departamento de Estado el año pasado y comenzó a aplicarse para el ciclo escolar 2011-2012.

"California y México comparten lazos de historia, geografía y comercio. México es el primer socio comercial de California y mantienen una relación comercial que vale 53,700 millones de dólares en las dos direcciones", dijeron Steinberg y Pérez en una carta enviada a Reed esta semana, a pocos días de que el líder del Senado y cinco legisladores más viajen a México para encontrarse con el presidente electo de ese país, Enrique Peña Nieto.

"Reinstalar el programa de educación en el exterior en México, es crítico para alimentar esta relación bilateral importante, a través de los intercambios académicos entre las próximas generaciones de líderes", indicaron.

Hicieron ver que México es un país con diferencias muy grandes en sus condiciones internas. Incluso mencionaron que el embajador de Estados Unidos en México en una carta de abril pasado al Departamento de Estado plantea un acercamiento más específico de las regiones riesgosas en México.

Así que Steingerg y Pérez pidieron a Reed que, basado en las revisiones que se han hecho a la advertencia de viajes a México, se reconsidere la suspensión de los programas de educación, y sugirieron tomar en cuenta el caso de la Universidad de California que continúa con éxito con sus programas en el vecino país.

El rector de CSU respondió a los líderes que las políticas de CSU no permiten la operación de programas estudiantiles en países donde hay una alerta de viaje del Departamento de Estado.

Sin embargo, expuso que a pesar de la advertencia han permitido que los maestros viajen a México a continuar sus investigaciones.

"He pedido a mi personal revisar la situación actual en México y sus efectos potenciales en nuestros estudiantes. Espero tener esta revisión para el 1 marzo de 2013. Y consideraré el restablecimiento de los programas caso por caso a partir del otoño de 2013", anotó.

"Nosotros valoramos nuestras relaciones de mucho tiempo con México y buscamos continuarlas en el futuro", agregó.

Para Pedro Ramírez, vicepresidente de asuntos legislativos de la Asociación de Estudiantes de la Universidad Estatal de California, los viajes de estudio en el extranjero son una buena oportunidad para los estudiantes.

"Yo no puedo viajar por mi estatus migratorio pero creo que si la seguridad ha mejorado en México, como los líderes dicen, no veo porque no se permita continuar esos intercambios", comentó Ramírez, estudiante de maestría en CSU Long Beach.

CSU mantuvo cancelados sus programas de estudio en Israel por casi una década desde 2002 debido a preocupaciones de seguridad. Apenas los reinstaló en diciembre del año pasado.

El sistema de la Universidad Estatal de California es el más grande de la nación con 23 campus y 427,000 estudiantes.

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