How Donald Trump’s presidency could affect international students in the US

International students and professors at US universities were among those caught in the wake of President Trump’s revised executive order to ban anyone from six predominantly islamic countries from entering the US.

There are currently over a million international students at US universities, and there is concern among them that this ban, along with Trump’s general anti-immigration rhetoric, could have severe ramifications for them. It’s worried colleges too, the Association of American Universities warned that the order could cause irreparable damage to US universities and cause the most talented students to choose to study elsewhere.

We look at how this will affect international students currently attending US universities and how it will affect the future of the universities themselves.

Why US universities are so popular with international students

Studying in the US is hugely attractive to many students from around the world. According to, US universities offer academic excellence and state of the art technology combined with quintessential college experience and, through scholarship programs, provide the best opportunity to obtain long-term career goals.

Scholarships are hugely important to both the US economy and international students who want a standard of education they simply can’t get in their own country. For example, 11,000 UK students studied in the US in 2015/16, many of whom enroll on world renowned sports and football scholarships to gain an experience of elite level sport whilst studying for a degree.

However, the number of British students studying on football scholarships pales into insignificance compared to the number of international students from China, India and Saudi Arabia, which altogether totalled more than half a million in 2016. The majority of international students head to the US to study subjects such as Business & Management and Engineering.

How Trump’s so-called ‘Muslim ban’ is affecting international students

Donald Trump’s executive order was intended to suspend the United States’ refugee system for a period of 120 days and ban all refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

Unsurprisingly, there’s growing concern among current or prospective students from these countries in the US. As a result, fewer international students could arrive at stateside universities. The only previous time there was a drop in applicants was in 2001, when specific policy shifts that affected student visas were introduced in reaction to 9/11.

Even if prospective students do meet the necessary criteria to study in the US, many could be deterred by what they view as Trump’s divisive politics. A few days before the US presidential election, a survey of 1,000 international students from 130 countries found that over 65% of students said they would be less likely to study in the US if Donald Trump was elected president.

How this will affect US colleges

It’s not just students that are concerned about the potential implications of four years under Donald Trump – the universities themselves are worried. International students were worth $30.5 billion to the American economy in 2014/15. A recent report by College Factual took the 23,763 international students from the seven banned countries currently studying in US universities and calculated that their fees could be worth as much as $700 million to the colleges in which they are enrolled.

The University of Southern California alone has 252 students from these seven countries, who could be worth as much as $17 million in tuition fees. College Factual CEO Bill Phelan claims that universities are hugely reliant on this money and warns the implications could be severe if the travel ban remains in place.

Colleges in the US are concerned and are making efforts to show how much they disagree with the President’s current stance on immigration. One US college even launched a refugee scholarship to defy Donald Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’ program.

The final word on this subject goes to Drew Faust, President of Harvard University. She wrote an open letter to her students titled ‘We Are All Harvard’ in which she wrote that “thousands of students and scholars and visitors come to Harvard each year from all over the globe—to study, to teach, to propel our research enterprise, to join in conferences and colloquia, to share insights and abilities that transcend nationality.” For Faust, this internationalism is a crucial ingredient in making American higher education a singular national asset.

Leave a Reply