Higher Ed’s Warning: Travel Ban Undermines U.S. Tech Training & Hiring

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cell phones to restaurant meals, creating jobs around Montana State University’s main campus in Bozeman and its three other campuses, he says.

MSU has a robust domestic enrollment, and doesn’t depend on international student tuition for its financial stability, Di Maria says.
But foreign students add a cultural perspective that makes its more than 15,000 U.S. students more valuable employees in the global economy.

Miller says American universities and colleges also perform a diplomatic function. International students who get to know the American people are more likely to engage positively with the United States as they become professionals and leaders in their home countries, he says.

Immigration policy could re-shape U.S. higher education landscape

The United States has many more higher education institutions than other countries competing for international students, Miller says. Seats are available here when students can’t get into the best schools at home or in other nations, he says.

That’s a fortunate symbiosis for U.S. schools facing financial challenges. The American college population is declining due to lower birth rates and other factors, including strained family resources after the 2008 financial crisis. Although college costs seem to be rising based on the tuition rates published in school catalogs, the intense competition for U.S. students has led to substantial tuition discounting through financial aid grants. The average discount rate among private colleges and universities rose to an unprecedented 48.6 percent for first-time freshmen in 2015-2016, Inside Higher Ed reported.

Add to that a long trend of declining state support for public universities, and the financial contribution of international students becomes all the more important.

Technology has also created new competitors for the customer base in post-secondary education. Students can now choose online degree programs, and adults can choose from a host of apps to study a foreign language, learn computer programming, and brush up on other skills.

Recruiting international students is one of the ways a school can sustain itself. But some of those students—along with their money, and their contributions to the U.S. workforce—-could flow elsewhere if U.S. immigration restrictions tighten significantly, higher ed officials say.

American universities themselves are finding ways to meet the needs of these students outside U.S. borders. For one thing, they’re expanding their own online programs. Students can get a U.S. education without coming to America. For example, Temple university has the top-ranked online MBA program in the nation, Miller says.

And like American tech companies who say they could have trouble importing talent due to the Trump administration’s proposed policies, universities can expand their operations abroad.

Temple has two branch campuses overseas, in Rome and Tokyo. Miller says the university is considering a plan to give some international students the option to start their education in Japan if they’ve been admitted to Temple, but can’t get a student visa. Then they might be able to transfer to the Philadelphia-based university if the travel restrictions are lifted.

Both online learning and branch campuses could be good for foreign students and their college or university. But, Miller points out, those students won’t be spending their money in a college town where the university may be one of the biggest employers—another potential consequence of the Trump administration’s heightened restrictions on entry into the United States, he says.

“The impact could be hugely negative on the U.S. as an economy in ways we haven’t considered,” Miller says.

Photo credit: CollegeCampus © Mnapoli; Depositphotos

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Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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