One of America’s most vital exports, education, never goes abroad, but it still faces threats

January 11, 2019

It’s no mere coincidence that Jeffrey R. Brown, the dean of the Gies College of Business, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is also a scholar of risk management. At his first faculty meeting four years ago, Brown fretted that his school had become, like many American universities, overly dependent on a single source of money — roughly a fifth of tuition revenue came from Chinese students. “I saw our reliance on China as a risk,” says Brown, noting that 800 or so of the university’s nearly 5,800 Chinese students attend the business school. “At the time, I was concerned that China could pull the plug on students coming to America. But then the U.S. political landscape shifted, and we were vulnerable to changing visa and immigration policies here, too. Both were threats we could not control.”