About the U.S.-Mexico Higher Education Observatory

With a common border that spans nearly 2,000 miles, the United States and Mexico share a long and complex history involving both conflict and cooperation, as well as deep cultural, economic, and social connections. While academic ties have long been part of the U.S.-Mexico relationship, recent years have seen a particular focus on this area, and a variety of new policies and initiatives to further expand and enhance cross-border higher education engagement.

Our observatory continues the important on higher education engagement initiated by both governments over the last decade, with the launching of the 100,000 Strong project in 2011 to boost U.S. student mobility (by 100,000) to Latin America and the Caribbean as well as a supporting a reciprocal number of students from the region to study in the US by 2020. In 2013, the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research (FOBESII) was initiated by both governments to further strengthen higher education engagement.

Available quantitative data and anecdotal evidence suggest that these efforts are bearing fruit, particularly with respect to Mexican student mobility to the U.S.  The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report indicates that the number of Mexican students enrolled at U.S. institutions has grown by around seven percent since the 2010-11 academic year; 2015-16 saw a particularly noteworthy increase, with the number of Mexican students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities rising by 15.4% over the previous year, when Proyecta 100,000 was launched. Although mobility from the U.S. to Mexico has fluctuated in recent years, the Open Doors data indicate modest gains each year since 2012; Mexico has been and remains one of the primary destination countries for U.S. students in Latin America, particularly for short-term experiences such as internships and volunteer opportunities.

The considerable resources and energy devoted to increasing collaboration in recent years, coupled with new challenges posed by the rapidly shifting political environment, make this a critical juncture in the U.S.-Mexico higher education relationship. An in-depth understanding of the current state of that relationship is needed in order to chart a path forward; the time is right  for a comprehensive assessment of the current state of U.S.-Mexico higher education engagement—including, but not limited to, student mobility initiatives and formal agreements between institutions. Supported by Banco Santander/Universia, this project endeavors to provide such an assessment. It includes a wide-ranging inventory of existing collaborative activity, an examination of trends and challenges, and data-based recommendations for policy and practice.


Project Team

Jermain Griffin, Ph.D. is a professorial lecturer with the American University School of Education. Jermain has been part of the U.S.-Mexico research project since its inception in January 2016 as research associate and later as a research consultant.

Robin Helms, Ph.D., is director of ACE’s Center for International and Global Engagement. She is responsible for designing and carrying out CIGE’s internationalization research agenda, including the Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses study, and overseeing administration of the Internationalization Laboratory.

Lisa Motley is the program manager for ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement.  Her work focuses on the Internationalization Laboratory, special programs, and the department’s budget and financials.