- A ban on Chinese student visas to attend U.S. colleges discussed among Trump administration officials earlier this year never materialized due to its potentially disastrous economic and political effects, but the news of its consideration has nonetheless impacted the global higher education community, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
- The news is reminiscent of the administration's travel ban, though it would have had a bigger impact. About one-third of international students at U.S. colleges is from China, numbering more than the combined count of students from the next five top-represented countries. The Trump administration has, however, moved to limit the length of visas for Chinese students who are studying and researching certain topics in response to concerns among the administration and some elected representatives of intellectual property theft and espionage.
- Public research universities would have been most affected by the proposed ban. New York's Stony Brook University, for example, currently has 55% of its 5,000 international students coming from China. Many Chinese students stay in the U.S. to work after college.
The Trump administration's moves to tighten U.S. immigration policies are a critical factor attributed to the recent decline in international students at U.S. colleges.
International education experts point to several other drivers of the drop-off, Inside Higher Ed reported. Those include reduced scholarship programs sponsored by foreign governments, better college education opportunities at home, the rising cost of college tuition in the U.S., changing visa policies, the lack of work opportunities after graduation and the increasingly anti-immigrant climate in the U.S. as other reasons why some international students are looking to countries such as Canada and Australia to pursue their education.
The decline in the number of international students could be detrimental to American graduate science and engineering programs, in particular, that want to continue to compete on a global scale. In 2015, 36% of all graduate students in science and engineering programs were international students and were awarded more than half of all doctoral degrees in the areas of computer science, economics, engineering, math and statistics.
A new report from the Council of Graduate Schools found that while international student enrollment declined 3.7% from fall 2016 to fall 2017, it is growing at a five-year rate of 4.7%.