…as well as 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year a new NAFSA report finds. Trump’s July 6th announcement of his intention to bar international college students from entering the country if their school went fully remote was met with swift outrage and backlash by both students and colleges. Along came a joint lawsuit launched by Harvard and MIT against the administration backed by over 200 colleges.
Although Trump had retracted the policy as of July 15, the threat of losing international students in American higher education remains as the country continues its steady 10% decline in international enrollment it has faced since 2016. This is largely due to international students’ disapproval of the current administrations’ harsh attitude and rhetoric around immigration, as well as financial concerns, uncertainty about employment in America post-graduation, and difficulties in the US visa process.
Compounded by the coronavirus, some estimates predict a further 25% decline in international enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year, which would have harsh consequences for American higher education. Financially, international students subsidize lower in-state tuition and financial aid for domestic students by typically paying full price for their college education. Losing international students will force colleges to raise tuition and cut programs, causing a positive feedback loop that will make it harder to attract these same students in the future.
The hardest hit will be colleges in the Midwest without global brand recognition, as well as graduate programs in which 50% of schools are reporting declines in international applicants. Besides colleges, local economies will feel the loss of the $41 billion that international students pumped into the United States last year. In addition to immediate financial repercussions, the US economy will lose jobs as 1 in 4 billion-dollar startups are founded by former international students. Highly technical or STEM-related jobs are also often filled by qualified international students, with 458,290 jobs filled by international students in 2019-2020. A loss of these students may push companies to relocate.
As the United States strides forward, colleges must get creative in order to compete with Canadian, Australian, and European universities that have begun to attract international students’ attention. Prioritizing diversity and foreign student enrollment will be critical not only for cultivating a diversity of thought on college campuses and aiming for academic excellence across borders but also for the financial health of higher education and continued innovation in the American economy.Economic Contributions of International Students by State
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