Biden administration may lure international students back, but not overnight
November 29 2020 12:51 AM

The United States is home to some of the best higher education institutions in the world, which was attested again by the latest The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.
Both in terms of the overall ranking and the highest positions, the US and the UK are well represented in The Times initiative, which was calculated using some 13 performance indicators underlying five metrics: research, teaching, research influence, industry income and international outlook.
However, the US universities recently experienced the biggest enrolment drop among international students in some 16 years, even before Covid-19 ravaged the globe — a sign of how the outgoing administration’s immigration policies have hurt American higher education.
Attendance slid 1.8% in the 2019-20 academic year to 1.08mn, according to the Open Doors report released by the nonprofit Institute of International Education.
That’s the third-biggest drop in the report’s almost 70-year history!
Interim Open Doors data from more than 700 institutions, about a quarter of schools that share numbers for the annual report, show a starker picture: new international student enrolment in the US — and online from abroad — tumbled 43% in the current semester.
Colleges have expressed alarm about international admissions for most of Trump’s presidency, saying it has discouraged foreign students from attending US schools, once viewed as the gold standard of higher education. The administration’s policies and proposals are prompting them to consider other destinations including the UK and Canada, according to Bloomberg.
A measure of the economic benefits that foreign students bring to the US fell for the first time in the more than two decades that it has been tracked by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Such students contributed $38.7bn to the US economy in 2019-20, down from almost $41bn a year earlier, according to the trade group.
“What immigrants contribute to this country in terms of talent, energy and economics really fell flat with this administration,” said Rachel Banks, NAFSA’s senior director for public policy and legislative strategy. “That’s one of the hopeful things with a change in administration.”
President-elect Joe Biden has promised to reverse many of Trump’s policies, including some of his immigration rules.
Biden’s election will undoubtedly come as a relief for international students exploring colleges and other universities in the US.
But given years of perceived unwelcoming policies toward immigrants and a loss of foreign students because of the Covid-19 pandemic, winning them back may not happen overnight. Clearly, such policies have taken a toll, and schools in other countries are fast filling the gap, Bloomberg says.
If not addressed properly, such sentiments could pose problems for US universities, even as a Biden presidency is expected to put out the welcome mat by eliminating anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions, making it easier for US companies to hire skilled workers from overseas, and reversing the ban on visitors from a number of predominantly Muslim countries.
Undoubtedly, one of the US strengths has always been linked to its ability to attract the world’s top talent and, in particular, the ability to bring top brains from so many different countries to work side-by-side with the Americans.

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