America’s highly selective universities, including the Ivy League universities, are designed to educate the world’s citizens. They are designed to educate citizens of South Africa and Peru, Zimbabwe and Canada just as they are designed to educate American citizens from New York, New York to Tunica, Mississippi to Red Lodge, Montana. Indeed the overarching goal of all of America’s elite universities is to educate these young people, these change agents, so they can then return to where they are from and make their neck of the woods better for all. Yet this spirit, under the outgoing Trump administration, has been under attack. The Trump administration, through its “America First” policy, essentially put forward the assertion that America’s highly selective universities should educate Americans and only Americans. It’s why the Trump administration’s policies have been so inhospitable over these last four years to international students — at one point even going so far as to threaten to kick them out of the country. But, as Bob Dylan sang it, the times they are a-changin’.
America’s Universities Showcase American Ingenuity
Perhaps former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said it best when she wrote in a piece for Foreign Affairs entitled “The Can-Do Power,” “One of the best ways to showcase the United States’ ingenuity and know-how is to again make its universities the most attractive in the world to foreign talent…American universities have a special place in the global imagination, and lowering the visa hurdles for study in the United States while creating better, more accessible pathways for international students to work in the United States after graduation can pay both short- and long-term dividends in expanding U.S. influence. Before Trump’s presidency, initiatives to attract international students to the United States would not have been controversial. For many decades, the United States has been the leading destination for foreign students.”
International Students Are A Boon to the American Economy
As importantly, international students studying at American universities are a boon to our economy. It cannot be understated that this is a huge source of income for America’s universities, income that helps subsidize the educations of many low-income American students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend these institutions. And, finally, as Ambassador Power writes, “More than 20 percent of current African leaders studied in the United States, including those at the helm in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.” The young people we educate, well, they end up ruling the world. So why would we not wish to instill in them the beauty of American democracy? It could well be a key ingredient in our future diplomacy with nations around the world.
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