Investing in Human and Institutional Capital through Building Higher Education: An Analysis of United States Assistance to Higher Education in Developing Countries from 2013-2015 and the Relationship with U.S. Universities
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The purpose of this study was to explore United States (U.S) government investments through its foreign assistance to higher education in order to inform policy and identify the relationship between these investments and the U.S. higher education community. This study utilized a mixed-methods approach to address the objectives: (1) to compile data from existing data sources in order to categorize and describe selected characteristics of U.S. foreign assistance to higher education, and (2) to document the role that U.S. universities play in the delivery of U.S. higher education development assistance. It was concluded that less than one percent of the foreign assistance budget is spent on higher education development assistance. Three agencies, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Inter-American Foundation (IAF) have assistance tagged as higher education. Of the 400 unique awards in the Foreign Assistance Dashboard tagged as higher education from 2013-2015, only 277 were determined to fit the higher education definition. More awards (89) were implemented by NGOs than any other implementer type; however, U.S. universities received a higher dollar total than any other implementer type. Study participants identified many benefits and challenges to higher education development assistance. Benefits included diplomacy and a greater understanding of the United States, higher education as a driver of economic growth and workforce development, and development of both human and institutional capacity. Challenges to higher education included the difficulty of quantifying results, lack of reliable measurements of higher education impacts, and higher education being perceived as an investment for the elite. A number of benefits and challenges in terms of working directly with U.S. universities as implementers of higher education development assistance were also identified. Benefits included universities’ inherent knowledge of higher education systems, similarities of challenges shared by host-country and U.S. universities, and a history of continued relationships beyond the life of the award. Challenges identified included high overhead costs of working with U.S. universities, a lack of understanding of how the agency (USAID) operates, and dealing with multiple bureaucracies. Investments in higher education, as well as in primary and secondary education, are investments in human capital. A well-functioning higher education system needs primary and secondary systems that prepare students to be successful in a global, knowledge-driven economy. More balanced investments are needed across all levels of education to derive economic and social benefits for all.
SubjectInternational Higher Education
Foreign Assistance to Higher Education
Alvis, Samantha Lee (2016). Investing in Human and Institutional Capital through Building Higher Education: An Analysis of United States Assistance to Higher Education in Developing Countries from 2013-2015 and the Relationship with U.S. Universities. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from