The Trump administration’s immigration policies are beginning to be felt acutely by universities, as international students struggle to get the visas they need to study in the United States. Representatives from 10 schools recently told The Atlantic that they are facing an increasing workload as they try to help students navigate bureaucracy and advocate on their behalf—a sentiment echoed by various college presidents at a dinner with reporters last night. Several of those presidents said some enrolled international students never made it onto campus for the start of the current semester.
After steadily climbing for more than a decade, the number of new international students enrolled at U.S. colleges has declined in recent years. According to survey data collected by the Institute of International Education during the 2016–17 school year, enrollment of these students fell by 3 percent from the previous year. Results from the institute’s 2017–18 survey, the most recent data available, show that it fell again—this time by close to 7 percent.
“I think that both [the Trump administration’s] immigration policy and the messaging of the day are literally turning [international] students away … and making them less inclined to want to study in the United States,” said Brian Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, a liberal-arts institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the dinner. (The dinner, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., was hosted by the Pennsylvania college Bucknell University and convened the heads of several schools, mostly liberal-arts colleges, to discuss challenges facing higher education.)