Brook Larmer of the New York Times reported 1.1 million international students attended American colleges and universities in 2017, generating $42.4 billion in export revenue. This was a $34.2 billion surplus in education over Americans studying abroad.
It is estimated that students from abroad created or sustained more than 455,000 jobs in the U.S.
“In the public at large, there’s little awareness that higher education is one of America’s biggest exports,” says Rajika Bhandari, Senior Advisor for Research and Strategy at the Institute of International Education. “Or that this export drives American competitiveness.”
America’s reputation as a beacon for the world’s students is faltering. For the first time in decades new enrollments of international students in U.S. colleges and universities fell by 3.3% in 2016. In 2017 the decrease increased to 6.6%.
Rising tuition costs, growing competition from other countries like Australia and Canada, heavy investment in higher education in their home countries and a fear of American gun violence has been impacting international students interest in studying in the U.S. but changes in visas and anti-immigrant sentiments are proving to have an even greater negative impact.
Chinese nationals were so convinced that the travel ban issued early in Trump’s presidency would extend to them that they canceled trips to visit home and opted to study elsewhere to avoid the uncertainty of their visas being honored. With the trade war escalating, reports of espionage and intellectual property thefts make Chinese students in technology feel targeted.The tightening of restrictions on American visas is generating more visa denials and delays, F-1 student visas issued declined 17% from 2016 to 2017, which is limiting Chinese students ability to study and work in the U. S.
International students spur American innovation and growth. Nearly a quarter of the founders of billion dollar U.S. start-up companies first came here as international students on visas, according to the National Foundation for American Policy. The National Science Foundation says that more than a third of the postdoctoral researchers in science, engineering and health in American labs are holding temporary visas. “We don’t have enough Americans trained for these jobs in engineering, computer science, even economics,” Richard Startz an Economics Professor at the University of California says.
Esther Brimmer, executive director and chief executive of Nafsa, a nonprofit group that supports international education, says, international students are “essential to the fabric of high education. It could take us years to rebuild the reputation of America as a nation that welcomes all to our campus communities.”
See our previous blog on changes in visas and their impact on the analytic marketplace.