Changes in immigration policy leave international students and U.S. universities struggling to adjust

The number of international students seeking to enroll in U.S. colleges and universities is on the decline, as changes in immigration policy create uncertainty about the students’ future job prospects, as well as their personal comfort and safety, according to The Times-Picayune.

More than 1,400 guidance counselors and recruitment officers discussed these issues earlier this month at the International Association for College Admission Counseling conference at Tulane University. More than half of the counselors surveyed by the IACAC in May said applications from international students had decreased, with the biggest drops among students from Africa and the Middle East (78 percent decrease) and South and Central America (75 percent decrease).

H-1B uncertainty a major obstacle

Along with concerns about gun violence and immigration policy, job opportunities after graduation are of particular concern, as many international students struggle to navigate the complex world of obtaining temporary work visas. A recent graduate from Taiwan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it’s hard to find companies offering H-1B visas, the temporary permit that allows American companies to hire foreign workers for particular jobs.

Writing in Higher Ed Today, Brad Farnsworth notes that “some international students arrive on our campuses with unrealistic expectations about work opportunities following graduation” and advises colleges and universities to start managing student expectations about employment before they arrive on campus.

“Am I welcome?”

Perhaps even more vexing than practical concerns about employment are questions like, “Will I be safe in America?” Satyajit Dattagupta, Tulane University’s vice president of enrollment, says he hears increasingly from international students. “For years, there was no question of why or if foreign students would want to come here to study, only how,” he wrote in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. “But in an age of ‘America First,’ U.S. colleges need to look beyond merely recruiting international students and consider the strategic support we must offer them once they arrive.”

Farnsworth says that to help international students feel welcome on campus, institutions can implement inclusive learning and social environments, provide mental health resources, and ensure they understand America’s health care system. Institutions need to address “the entire international student experience, from first contact through alumni status,” he says.

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