Are International Students in Trump’s Crosshairs?

Are International Students in Trump’s Crosshairs?

international students

Throughout his campaign, Donald J. Trump spoke disparagingly of immigrants. His calls to “ban” Muslims and for “extreme vetting” on visa applications have cast a pall of concern over some leaders in higher education. Now, many are questioning how the president-elect’s comments and policies will affect international college students.

Although U.S. K-12 scores are undistinguished on international exams, like the PISA, higher education in the U.S. has a good international reputation, and many overseas students want to come to the U.S. to study.

The Middle East sends more than 100,000 students to American universities; but China sends more students than any other country: more than 300,000 in the 2014—2015 school year.

African students, too, seek higher education in the U.S. According to the University World News, the U.S. is the top choice, by far, of African students seeking to study for college abroad. The U.K. and Canada were distant second and third choice destinations.

Will Trump Cast a Pall on International Students’ Hopes?


“One of the core values of international education is about celebrating diversity and learning from differences,” Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of, an international student services company, is quoted as saying in an article on Inside Higher Ed. “Trump’s viewpoints are insular and not in line with the values of international education. It is likely that future policies will start looking inward and slow down international education exchanges and student mobility.”

“Career advancement is one of the prime motivations for international students to study in the U.S.,” Choudaha continues in the post. “Trump’s anti-immigrant stance may create stricter visa and immigration policies that may make it even more difficult for students to come to the U.S. and find internship and job opportunities.”

The Irony of U.S. Anti-Immigration


The irony of Trump’s position is that, unless you’re a Native American–by that, I mean an American Indian–your forebears came to the U.S. from another country. Trump’s forebears are German; in the late summer, questions arose about the history of Melania Trump, a native of Slovenia. Her lawyer says she never worked in the U.S. illegally, but she has not released her records to substantiate those claims.

Another issue that some have raised is that American students are also going abroad to study, and those numbers are growing. Could we end up in a situation where Trump’s policies restrict the number of international students coming here, but other countries retaliate and ban or limit the number of American students they allow in?