When President Donald Trump signed his first executive order on immigration in January, which was subsequently frozen by a Federal judge in Washington state, university officials around the country became fearful of the policy’s immediate and long-term impact on higher education. The revised order, frozen by another Federal judge in Hawaii, included a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a temporary ban on the issuance of new visas for people from six countries. Although concerns at this point are mostly anecdotal due to the speed of legal challenges, such a policy could have widespread consequences for higher education in the United States.
The Trump administration’s stance on immigration and the policies it wishes to implement have caused distress not only for current international students, but for prospective ones as well. Setting overly demanding vetting procedures for prospective students does not build confidence in international students and their parents who are trying to make a decision about a four-year education. Additionally, the uncertainty created by the volatility of the Trump administration’s immigration policy hinders prospective international students’ ability to make reliable plans for the future.
One of the primary motivations for international students to study in the United States is career advancement. Trump’s current stance on immigration, reflected by both versions of his executive order, would create stricter visa and immigration policies which may make it excessively difficult for current and future international students to find internship and job opportunities in the United States. With these restrictions in place, our country will no longer be able to offer the opportunities it once did to international students, scholars and professionals.
Along with their contributions to campus culture, international students also provide colleges with crucial revenue by often paying full tuition. A report by College Factual found that, if Trump's initial immigration ban had become permanent, U.S. colleges could lose up to $700 million per year in revenue. The drop in international enrollment potentially caused by the ban would, therefore, have a detrimental impact on our country’s institutions of higher education.
As of 2015, almost 24,000 students who attend U.S. colleges and universities come from countries affected by the immigration ban. Our universities fundamentally depend on people’s ability to travel across borders without undue constraint or “extreme vetting.” The Trump administration and policymakers would do well to improve both international education exchanges and student mobility — not raise new barriers.