Is the United States granting fewer F-1 student visas in the age of President Trump’s “America First” mantra? The short answer is yes. The number of F-1 student visas issued to international students pursuing their educations declined by a margin of 17% in the year that ended September 30, 2017, as reports the United States Department of State. But, as Mark Twain taught the world, statistics don’t always tell the full story. Indeed many of the sharpest declines in international student numbers are at less selective schools — not at our nation’s most elite institutions. The drops are also more widespread at the graduate level — not at the undergraduate level.
A Drop in International Student Numbers at Less Selective U.S. Universities
As reports Parija Kavilanz for “CNN Money” in a piece entitled “Sharp drop in international student visas worries some US colleges,” “The biggest decline in visa approvals in 2017 was seen among students from Asian countries, particularly those from China and India which typically account for the largest number of F-1 visas…In China specifically, a 2014 change in visa policy allows Chinese students to obtain an F-1 visa for a five-year period instead of one, freeing them from having to renew their visa each year. That change alone could contribute to the recent declines, said Goodman. Worldwide competition for international students is also heating up, he said. The United States used to account for almost half of all international students worldwide. Now about 24% of all international students come here, said [Allan Goodman, president of the nonprofit Institute of International Education]. Instead, they are going to countries like Canada, Germany and Australia, which are making it easier for international students to stay in the country after they graduate and become part of the workforce.”
Highly Selective U.S. Universities Continue to Attract Waves of International Applicants
But what the “CNN Money” piece neglects to articulate is whether or not the United States Department of State is approving fewer F-1 student visas under the Trump administration or if fewer international students are applying for F-1 student visas. Sure, the Trump administration, with its “America First” mantra, doesn’t exactly champion the notion of international students studying at American universities. But maybe these students just don’t see the value in attending a not so prestigious U.S. university. After all, there are thousands of universities in the United States. There are only a few handfuls of elite universities. And these elite universities are not — we repeat not — seeing declines in international student numbers.
Take a look at the breakdown of the Early Action results for Princeton University this year. Princeton ranks #1 in the all-important “US News & World Report” college rankings. It is the elite of the elite. 11% of students admitted in the Early Action round to the Princeton Class of 2022 hailed from outside the United States. And the year before? 11% of students admitted in the Early Action round to the Princeton Class of 2021 hailed from outside the United States. Not exactly a decline in international student numbers.
And Princeton is not alone. At Dartmouth College, 10% of Early Decision admits to the Class of 2022 were foreign citizens. Admits hailed from 23 countries. For the Class of 2021, 8.3% of Early Decision admits were foreign citizens. Admits hailed from 22 countries. If anything, we’re seeing the reverse trend — Dartmouth is admitting more international applicants in the age of the Trump presidency. We can go on and on with case example after case example at our nation’s most elite institutions. But you get the idea. As our crystal ball accurately predicted, international students are still applying in droves to our nation’s most elite institutions, irrespective of any xenophobic policies put forward by the Trump administration.
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