For several decades, the US was the most preferred destination for students, especially for those from South and South-East Asia. However, more and more students are now seeking admission in colleges and universities UK, Canada and Australia.
Last two years witnessed a 10% decline in the number of international students enrolled in higher education institutions in the US. According to an estimate, this is causing a loss of $ 5.5 billion to the US economy which earns over $ 42 billion annually from tuition fees and living expenses of international students.
In this Article, Student Cover tries to explain the reasons behind this shift in migration pattern among international students.
A Perennial Problem and a Psychotic Messiah
During his campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump promised to ‘Make America Great Again’. His mantra for achieving greatness was simple. America had to tough with regard to immigration. He argued that Americans have suffered because it was too liberal in accepting outsiders (immigrants) with open arms.
His main targets were the illegal immigrants from Mexico and other South American countries who had entered the US to escape poverty and crime in their own country. His solution for this was to build a wall – ‘a great wall, a beautiful wall’ he said. ‘Mexico will fund that wall’, he said.
But soon after becoming President, he found out that building a wall wasn’t as easy as building a popular narrative against immigration. Besides logistical challenges in building a wall that stretches for over thousands of kilometers in a terrain marked by hills, swamps, deserts and forests it was also going to cost the American tax payer a hell lot of money. Mexico refused to commit suicide by agreeing to pay for the wall.
Can’t Eject Them, Reject Them
After failing to get the wall built, Trump shifted his focus to the low hanging fruit – US Visas. He first tried to coerce US companies to hire only Americans through executive order of April 2017. This ‘Buy American, Hire American’ rule made it tough for US companies to hire low skilled low paid foreigners. It also increased H-1B denial rate from 4% in 2015 to 15% in 2018. In cases where outright denial was not possible, the government used a more noble solution. It delayed accepting the H-1B visa request to such an extent that it became unfeasible for the applicant both in terms of money and time.
A risky investment
While good quality education is surely what drives international students to the US, it is not the only factor. Many students who apply there hope to, if possible, settle there or, at least want to stay enough to be able to earn and repay vast amounts of loan that they have taken back home. Trump’s April 2017 order as well as the increase in visa denial rate risks their investment in higher education.
For a course that costs around $75,000 would not get an Indian or any other Asian student a sufficient salary to meet his bank’s EMI obligation. The global economic slowdown as well as the risky job prospects in the US is mostly responsible for turning students towards other knowledge destinations.
As a Result.…
As a result of these policies, less number of companies were now willing to hire international students. According to National Association of Colleges and Employers, the percentage of US employers who were willing to hire international students dropped from 34% in 2015 to 23% in 2018. This, coupled with slowdown in global economy due to US-China trade war saw the F-1 visa issued to students fall from 0.64 million in 2015 to 0.36 million in 2018, a fall of nearly 44%.
At the same time, the number of international students in UK Universities increased from 4,36,880 in 2015 to 4,58,520 by 2018, a growth of 5% (Source: Study-in-UK.org). Australia’s numbers are even more impressive with the number of students enrolling for higher education courses increasing from 2,799,285 in 2015 to 4,146,766 in 2018, a growth of 48% (Source: Department of Education & Training, Australian Govt).
In Canada, which in recent years has witnessed high job creation, the number of foreign students studying in the country has risen by over 73% since 2014 with 2016, 2017 and 2018 registering double digit growth. Indian students were the biggest contributors in this growth. As of 2018 they make up for 40% of all international students studying in Canada surpassing even Chinese students which stand at 24%.
The Trump administration’s illiberal immigration policy is beginning to hurt the American higher education institutions more than the international students. He should know that international students who go on to become managers and CEOs have contributed as much to America’s growth as any other US citizen. Trump, who wants to make America great again, should take a leaf from French President Charles De Gaulle who said, “France cannot be France without greatness”. America must search this greatness within.