Students Fear They May Not be Welcome in Trump’s America
Unsure of US president’s policies on foreign students and workers, Indians studying in America fret about future prospects
Sreeradha D Basu & Varuni Khosla
Mumbai | New Delhi: “I see that there are two different Americas. One America is cheering Trump on as he did exactly what he said and what millions voted for. But in universities and cities, the vast majority are shocked and angry at what has been happening,” said an Indian PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). US President Donald Trump’s executive orders restricting entry into the country and reports of curbs being planned on foreign students and workers are worrying Indians at colleges there. Others are reconsidering plans for higher education in the US considering the hostile reception that awaits them.
The president could scrap a mea- sure that allows some students to stay on in the US for three years after getting their degree, it’s been reported by Vox.com and others.
“I was looking to use that as a runway to set up a technology startup,” said the MIT student cited above. “Doing it in one year will be incredibly hard. It complicates things for those who want to pursue entrepreneurship.”
That worry is despite the fact that those from MIT, especially PhDs, are highly coveted by employers and tend to get annual pay upwards of $90,000 after graduation.
Optional practical training (OPT) currently allows graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees to stay in the US for up to three years after graduating from college. Curtailing that period will hurt the plans of some 165,918 Indian students in the US with about three-fourths of them being in STEM programmes.
Possible changes to H-1B visa rules and key Trump aide Stephen Bannon’s apparent antipathy toward South Asians are also preying on the minds of students.
Many universities have spoken out against Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration and have been vocal about welcoming foreign students even before he took over. Top US colleges and universities including Yale, Northwestern and University of Virginia launched a campaign to reassure overseas students that their campuses would always be welcoming to enrolled and aspiring foreign scholars just weeks after Trump won the election.