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International Student Visas Are Way Down Under Trump. Here’s Why U.S. Colleges Should Be Scared

March 12, 2018, 12:57 PM UTC

Trump administration policies are discouraging foreign students from studying in the U.S., and that’s becoming a big problem for American colleges and universities.

In the year ended Sept. 30, 2017, the State Department issued 17% fewer student visas than in the previous year, and 40% fewer than the peak year of 2015, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In addition to the benefit to the student experience that colleges and universities see from having a diverse student body, this decline in international enrollment is a serious blow to the bottom line at some institutions.

In January, The New York Times reported that the decline in international enrollment was forcing institutions around the country to make tough budget cuts of the style often seen in American public primary and secondary schools. Music and sports programs as well as student activities like college newspapers have been the first on the chopping block.

International students bring in $39 billion in revenue to colleges and universities, according to the Times. They are particularly valuable to the schools they attend because they tend to pay more tuition than other students. At state schools, international students don’t qualify for in-state tuition; at private schools, they don’t qualify for some types of financial aid, and therefore are more likely to pay full tuition.

While the Trump administration has not officially capped student visas, universities say students who apply for visas are undergoing greater scrutiny, and that — after a review ordered by the President — consular guides have been updated to encourage less leniency. Other factors, such as increasing competition with universities in other English-speaking countries, and less support for international study from some governments, have contributed to the decline in enrollment. Still, experts say the Trump administration’s contributions to the issue are not trivial.