Trump’s anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric is al­ready hurt­ing US higher ed­u­ca­tion

David Steele-figueredo, pres­i­dent, Wood­bury Univer­sity in Bur­bank, Cal­i­for­nia

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LETTERS -

In­ter­na­tional stu­dent en­rol­ments have been a ma­jor boost to the US econ­omy in re­cent years and have been cru­cial to en­sur­ing the fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity of many uni­ver­si­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2017 re­port by the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, there were 1.08 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional stu­dents study­ing in the US in 2016-17, mark­ing the 11th straight year of growth. As do­mes­tic en­rol­ment con­tin­ues to de­cline, this boom in in­ter­na­tional stu­dent en­rol­ment has been par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant.

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents also con­trib­uted $36.9 bil­lion (£25.9 bil­lion) in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the US in 2016-17, sup­port­ing more than 450,000 jobs, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion trade as­so­ci­a­tion Nafsa.

The num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, how­ever, started to flat­ten in 2016. And in many states it is on the de­cline.

More­over, new en­rol­ment data sup­port the no­tion that the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed travel ban and the rhetoric be­hind it are con­tribut­ing to the down­ward trend. A pre­lim­i­nary sur­vey of 500 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties by the IIE es­ti­mated an av­er­age 7 per cent de­cline in au­tumn 2017, with nearly half the cam­puses re­port­ing de­clines.

It is only re­cently, how­ever, that our na­tion has fo­cused on th­ese dual neg­a­tive trends in both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional en­rol­ments in higher ed­u­ca­tion.

The cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion (par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ap­proval of visas) have made it more chal­leng­ing to be an in­ter­na­tional stu­dent – or prospec­tive in­ter­na­tional stu­dent – at ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions across our na­tion. And fu­ture en­force­ment mea­sures that may fol­low, as well as the anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric in Wash­ing­ton DC in gen­eral, have cre­ated a cli­mate of fear. Thus, this po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty cou­pled with the in­creased com­pe­ti­tion abroad is likely to fur­ther re­duce in­ter­na­tional de­mand for US ed­u­ca­tion.

This is even more prob­lem­atic given the fact that more than half the for­eign-born founders of US tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies orig­i­nally came to the US to study en­gi­neer­ing and com­puter sci­ence. For­eign na­tion­als al­ready ac­count for more than half of all US doc­toral de­grees. This ad­di­tional “bonus” has not been fac­tored into our na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal dia­logue and the po­ten­tial fu­ture loss to our econ­omy.

As the pres­i­dent of a small, pri­vate, non-profit univer­sity in Cal­i­for­nia, Wood­bury Univer­sity is for­tu­nate to con­tinue to at­tract a high num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents – some 24 per cent of stu­dents.

Apart from the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits, gen­der and eth­nic di­ver­sity pro­vides a fun­da­men­tal ben­e­fit to a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion in the US, with the so­cial im­pact of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in­valu­able in this re­gard. The cul­ture of col­lege cam­puses has been strength­ened by their di­ver­sity of opin­ion and in­no­va­tive spirit.

Thus, our higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has to put in place pro­cesses to con­tinue to at­tract in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, rang­ing from more ag­gres­sive in­ter­na­tional re­cruit­ing prac­tices, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional schol­ar­ships, to im­prov­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dent sup­port ser­vices.

It is crit­i­cally im­por­tant to pro­vide a wel­com­ing and sup­port­ive cam­pus cli­mate for th­ese stu­dents who may have trav­elled – far less lived – abroad for the first time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.