Graduation day at New York University (file photo)
Although there are deep concerns, there’s no evidence so far that international students are staying away from America’s top universitiesbecause of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals and rhetoric.
On Wednesday, a Wall Street Journal survey of 12 of the top 20 schools for foreign student enrollment, including eight of the top 10, found that nearly all received more international applications for freshman admission this year than last year.
Freshman applications to New York University (NYU) from overseas soared 7.3 percent to 18,373, and deposits from international students who have already been admitted are tracking ahead of last year, according to the survey. Similarly, international student applications for freshman admission to the University of Southern California rose 3.7 percent this year to 8,233.
Michigan State’s international student applications are off by less than 2 percent so far — and still rolling in — which executive director of admissions Jim Cotter called “within the range of normal flexibility.”
Significantly, the University of Washington, said it was encouraged that applications from predominantly Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, were “stable this year” compared with previous years.
Despite the uptick, US college admissions officials are nervous about growth as Trump queers the pitch with his hardline anti-immigrant policies. “The mood at admissions offices across campuses remains somber, after Mr Trump last week signed an executive order suspending immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations,” noted the Journal.
US colleges could be deprived of up to $700 million in income per year if Trump’s immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries becomes permanent, according to a report released on Tuesday by College Factual, a higher education data analytics and research company.
It is worth noting that international students pay up to three times more than in-state American students at public universities. In other words, foreign students from countries like China and India effectively subsidize education costs for some American students.
Visa Speed Bump
The White House and lawmakers in Congress are taking on another combative piece of immigration policy: H-1B work visas which are favored by tech companies and college graduates. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency hands out sought-after H-1B visas every year. There is a cap of 85,000 H-1B visas every year, with 65,000 visas for foreign workers and 20,000 for students graduating from US colleges with a Master’s degree or higher.
A draft executive order under consideration directs the government to re-examine a range of visa programs to ensure they protect “the jobs, wages and well-being of US workers”. There are concerns in academic circles that Trump’s draft executive order could reverse Obama’s extension of the duration of Optional Practical Training (OPT) work visas.
The standard duration of an OPT visa is one year. On April 8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security approved a 17-month OPT extension for students graduating with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) degree. A new rule effective from May 10, 2016, further extended the work visa to 24-months for STEM degree holders.
“The OPT extension is especially appealing to Indian students, who are concentrated in master’s programs in engineering and computer science,” said Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of interEDGE, a US-based provider of support services for international students.
At the same time, several congressional Republicans, including Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, are crafting, or have introduced, legislation aimed at overhauling visa programs and possibly decreasing the number of legal immigrants admitted into the country.
“If the executive order of limiting legal immigration and reversing OPT extension comes into force, it would result in many international student “opting-out” of the US as a preferred destination of choice,” said Choudaha.
Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.