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Why This University President Is So Concerned About Trump’s Immigration Policies

February 21, 2018, 12:24 PM UTC

Max Nikias, president of the University of Southern California, is reiterating concerns that Trump administration immigration policies will hurt higher education—and the U.S. economy.

He told CNBC that while there has yet to be a major impact, he is “worried about government over-regulation in American higher education.” His objective is to continue to attract a diverse student body, including drawing on international students—something USC has been doing for 140 years.

Read: Senate Blocks 4 Immigration Proposals, Deepening Stalemate on Dreamers

Of USC’s 38,000 students, approximately 23% are from abroad. But many are unable to stay and work following graduation, due to visa restrictions. Nikias said that these policies cause the U.S. to lose valuable talent, particularly in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). With the number of skilled workers in these areas reportedly dropping, the U.S. stands to suffer.

International student enrollment in itself bolsters the U.S. economy. According to international education trade association NAFSA, international students contributed $36.9 billion in economic activity in 2016-17 and supported more than 450,000 jobs. But an increasingly aggressive approach to immigration is already beginning to discourage international students from coming to the U.S. to study.

Read: Donald Trump, DACA and the Arguments Being Made For and Against Immigration Reform

The Institute of International Education found that new foreign enrollment in American universities dropped 3% from 2015 to 2016—the first time the growth trend reversed since the organization began tracking those figures.

Although it may be too soon to place blame on the “Trump effect,” Nikias nevertheless finds cause for concern. “The secret of success in America, if you look at any industry sector, is that our universities have been a magnet for the best and the brightest from all over the world to come, be educated, and contribute in our society,” he said.