Trump's migration block and higher education

American president Trump recently ordered a 120 day ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.  What does this mean for higher education?

First off, stress, suffering, and both career and personal life damage to a number of students, faculty, and staff who travel or have deep ties to these nations.  I think widespread revulsion to, and many protests against the ban have shown this, as have personal accounts.

Second, American colleges, universities, libraries, and museums may see fewer incoming international students, staff, and faculty, both from those seven countries and beyond, as people appalled by the order and its attendant politics decide not to apply to the US.  For example, Inside Higher Ed notes that

The order could potentially deter future students and have direct negative impacts on current students from affected countries, who might not be able to re-enter the U.S., or on scholars who were planning to travel for U.

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S.-based conferences in the coming months. More than 17,000 international students in the U.S. hail from the seven Muslim-majority countries affected by the immediate 90-day entry ban.

Rahul Chouhada notes that American graduate programs are more likely to be hit than undergrad ones.

the majority of the students from the seven banned countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – were primarily enrolled in graduate level programmes. For example, 70% of Iranian students were enrolled in doctoral-level programmes (8,603 out of 12,427) in 2016…

This matters a great deal, especially as American grad program enrollment would be going down now if it weren’t for international students.

In general, many American institutions depend on international students for enrollment (i.e., revenue) across the board.  This Trump ban could well depress our student numbers, depressing revenue.

Beyond teaching, American universities could take a research hit if international outrage against the travel ban leads researchers and/or institutions to rethink collaborating with this country.

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Moreover, will this ban help stoke resistance and organization against Trump’s other immigration measures?  We’ve already seen campuses express opposition to the travel policy.  I’ve raised the possibility that we could see colleges and universities resisting new immigration enforcement levels, even leading to civil unrest.  Maybe this is becoming more likely.

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Looking ahead a little further, what kind of lasting impacts could this ban have?

At University World News Marguerite Dennis thinks we’ll see new regional education hubs, like China and Canada, rise and take American business.  This makes a great deal of sense, especially given Canada’s fine record of international enrollment.  Regional hubs might appeal to students nervous about traveling longer geographical and cultural distances to Boston or San Francisco.

Perhaps the Trump ban will give a boost to international online learning as well, for similar reasons.

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 Why risk the American border guard and a nation apparently hostile to the world, despite our academic protests, when you can stay home and learn online?  Alternatively, will scholars urged not to travel turn to the internet to conduct more collaborations?

Several possible outcomes, then: a shift of the transnational academic market away from the US; a further boost to online research and study; campus activism against Trump.

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One Response to Trump's migration block and higher education

  1. It is clear that the relative decline in real or perceived (permanent or temporary) hospitality of the US to international students will not increase the numbers of international students. Since many institutions have become dependent on these “full-fare” students, the financial consequences may well be significant. International students may represent only 5% of US enrollments, but they tend to be concentrated in “name brand” institutions, and as you point out, in graduate programs. Thus, the implications of any dip in demand will be felt more deeply than the percentages of the whole might indicate.

    To see how this might play out, consider Purdue. Led by former Governor Mitch Daniels, it has many more international students that when he began. This change in enrollment patterns and other actions have allowed Purdue to keep tuition level for several years. The value of a Purdue degree may allow Purdue to maintain this pattern, as other less valued degrees have fewer takers.

    As for boosting online programs, there are already prohibitions against offering courses to some students, for example North Koreans. Perhaps that list will grow. So I share Marguerite Dennis’s thought that non-US regions that are more welcoming to international students, whether online or on campus are most likely to benefit.

    Thanks for the insightful account.

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