- The Trump administration is planning to propose a set maximum period of authorized stay for international students in the U.S., according to Inside Higher Ed, which notes concern the change will depress the number of international students. The proposal is expected next fall.
- Currently, international students can retain their student visas for as long as they remain students. The new rule would set a fixed maximum term for certain holders of nonimmigrant visas, including F-1 student visas, though a timeframe has not been specified.
- Critics of the proposed rule say international students are already carefully vetted and monitored and are valuable additions to U.S. campuses. While the plan would reduce flexibility for international students, it would help provide clarity in light of a separate rule dictating "unlawful presence" issued by the Trump administration in August.
The number of international students in the U.S. is on the decline, posing a challenge to colleges that rely on the higher tuition paid by this group and who seek to create a globally diverse campus. Higher education officials cite several factors for the falling international headcount, including high U.S. education costs, the country's current political and social environment, and growing competition from colleges in other countries.
The desire to maintain foreign students' access to U.S. higher education has received some bipartisan support. In a June, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, chaired a hearing on the matter and opened it by saying he was "not interested" in restricting student visas and that he advocated for expanding H-1B and other visas for foreign students, according to a recap of the hearing by NAFSA.
Ranking committee member Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted during the hearing that Trump administration policies have caused a 3% decline in the number of international students, a drop experts say is likely to double in 2019, while the rate at which other countries accept foreign students will rise substantially. Durbin also noted that international students brought $37 billion to the U.S. during the 2016-17 academic year.
The number of first-time international graduate students enrolled in U.S. programs fell 3.7% from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017, with their share among first-time grad students falling from 22% to 20.3% during that period, according to a report from the Council of Graduate Schools. There were proportionally more first-time international graduate students at private nonprofits (24.2%) than public colleges (19%) in the fall of 2017.
A shrinking pool of international students has colleges that rely on their tuition dollars to fund scholarships for domestic students concerned. To help compete for fewer students, experts advise improving the educational experience for this group with colloquial-free language in classes, shorter readings and help understanding the U.S. healthcare system. Many colleges are even lowering international student tuition.