Fewer international students attending U.S. universities


Graphic by Landon Hatcher.

By Meera Dahiya

Georgetown University freshman Nikita Gupta has broadened her horizons this semester by learning from her international peers. Having foreign classmates encourages her professors to teach from an international point of view, which allows her to consider other perspectives, she said.

But in recent years, fewer international students are choosing to attend American universities. United States colleges saw a 3.3 percent decline in international students between 2016 and 2017 and a 6.6 percent decline between 2017 and 2018, The Wall Street Journal found in 2018.

This decline in international students is in part due to the Trump Administration’s policies, which are making it more difficult for international students to get employment visas, immigration lawyer at Shah and Kishore Devang Shah said.

It’s still relatively easy to get a student visa, but the Trump administration is forcing more students to go through additional administrative processing, prolonging the process to get a visa, said NYU’s Melissa Zuroff, NYU Global Services communications director.

Since 2016, the State Department has made it more difficult for companies to sponsor international students, Shah said. Company sponsorship allows student to apply for H-1B visas, which permit them to work in the United States. Foreign students may be discouraged from applying to U.S. schools if they fear they won’t be able to secure a H-1B visa, allowing them to work here after graduation, Shah said.

Still, international students add to universities’ learning environments, NYU’s Zuroff said.

“When international students come to the U.S., they bring perspectives that are so enriching,” she said. “That alone is one of the reasons why international students are so important to our university.”

Charlotte Alden (‘18) was born in Toronto, Canada, has dual Canadian and American citizenship and studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Alden enjoys studying at UBC because she is able to learn from her many international peers, she said.

“My favorite thing about UBC is the fact that it’s so diverse,” Alden said. “I get this really multicultural experience here and I love it.”

Maria Sunjka is a senior at Grammar School Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj in Serbia. Sunjka is applying to U.S. colleges because it’s her dream to live and study in America. But she knows many classmates who can’t go to college in America because of universities’ high price tag, she said.

Counselor Bill Toth said international students at Whitman who aren’t citizens or have dual citizenship often choose to leave the U.S. for college.

“If you look at Canadian schools or European schools, they’re definitely a lot cheaper than American colleges,” Toth said. “The international students that we have here tend to look abroad.”

Gupta hopes these policies change because she likes having international students at Georgetown University.

“I hope that this trend doesn’t continue because I have three and half years of college left and I want to have international students in my classes for the rest of college,” she said.