By Joe Guzzardi
November 14, 2017
For the second consecutive year, international student enrollment in U.S. universities topped one million. According to the annual “Open Doors” report on the 2016-2017 academic year from the Institute of International Education (IIE), the 1.08 million matriculated foreign-born students represent a new record, an 85 percent increase since 2006-2007. The number of newly enrolled, first-year students, however, dipped slightly.
The top sending countries for international students headed to U.S. campuses are China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico and Brazil. The primary hosting states are California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. Each saw international student increases in 2016-17.
California has the most foreign-born students, 157,000, and the most coveted destinations are New York University and the University of Southern California, followed by three University of California schools. NYU and USC are private schools, but UC is a land grant school meaning its long overlooked charter is to provide for state residents.
IIE has a decidedly globalist perspective on the steady increase in overseas students, and emphasizes the academic and economic benefits of a diverse enrollment. Given IIE’s views, its report mostly ignores several important components that should be addressed in an international student analysis. Significant but overlooked considerations are that each enrollee from abroad leaves a qualified U.S. kid on the sidelines, and that the universities’ administrators are enamored of the higher out-of-state tuition fees that international students pay.
But sustained international enrollment and its potentially negative effect on U.S. students has caught the attention of some elite universities’ administrators. In a 2016 interview with The Washington Post, Georgetown Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon spoke with admirable candor. Deacon said he is concerned that international enrollment could be nearing an unacceptable level at some schools by potentially crowding out qualified U.S. students.
Acknowledging that there’s an argument for the presence of foreign nationals at U.S. colleges, Deacon asked if “there’s a tipping point” where too many have been admitted. Deacon suggested that international admissions is “an issue we have to reckon with.”
No reckoning, to use Deacon’s word, can occur without an in-depth review of the student F-1 visa process, the first step in entering the U.S. The F-1 visa has no cap, and therefore an unlimited number of students can be authorized to enroll. This specific non-immigrant visa includes work authorization, Optional Practical Training (OPT) as the jargon goes. The F-1/OPT student can eventually apply to change his immigration status to a different employment-based category and thereby extend his stay. Another popular student option is to ignore the visa’s expiration date, and overstay. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that last year 40,000 student and exchange visitors did not leave the U.S. in accordance with their visa exit dates.
International students can and do make valuable contributions to the campus environment. But as Deacon observed, balance is the key. President Trump promised to make immigration work in favor of Americans, and has signed an executive order authorizing more rigorous oversight of student visa overstays. The F-1 visa is issued with the explicit understanding that students, upon completing their studies, will return home, not linger illegally. Moreover, consular officials, students’ first hurdle in obtaining an F-1 visa, must be more skeptical.
President Trump’s pledge to put Americans first should not be limited to the workplace, but to university campuses where U.S. kids also have the right to pursue their dreams.