The US has long benefitted from welcoming international students to its campuses. In exchange for receiving world-class education and often some work experience, students engage with American culture, contribute billions of dollars to the economy, and create strong connections with their US peers. When it works, the system can be a powerful form of soft diplomacy for the country.
But foreign students currently considering whether to study in the US face a cocktail of concerns, from racial intolerance, to uncertainty around visa and job prospects after graduation, to the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In July, US Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) rescinded student visas for international students taking their entire courses online as the pandemic was sweeping through the country. The decision was later revoked after top schools like MIT and Harvard sued the administration.
“The current administration’s agenda, however you wish to interpret it, has done lasting damage for its reputation to a generation of students who once looked at the US as the gold standard of education,” said Jihna Gavilanes, president of student services at UK-based education management firm Studee. “ICE sent a clear message to international students—you’re not welcome here.”