SEATTLE — The executive order put into action last month barring immigrants from entering the United States has had and could potentially have many devastating effects. Among others, it will have a detrimental impact on the future of international higher education and the United States’ status as a leader in education and advancement.
The ban has already prevented many aspiring academics from entering the United States to pursue higher education at prestigious American schools. Iranian students will be affected the most, as a country that contributed 12,000 students to American universities in 2015. Each of the other six countries affected by the ban sent fewer than 2,000 students during the 2015-2016 academic year. Allowing students from around the world to study in America is an integral aspect of the American educational system, and academics like Fatemeh Keshavarz of the University of Maryland argue that the presence of international students at American universities creates more open discussions and makes the world a safer place.
This policy will significantly impact international students hoping to study in the United States, but it will also harm the United States’ standing in the global academic community. For one thing, the U.S. could lose many bright students and ideas. Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the Association of American Universities, fears that American schools will lose their standing without the ability to bring in talented students and faculty from the countries affected. In addition, closing our borders to huge numbers of people could have a devastating effect on research and the sharing of information, a crucial aspect of international higher education. American professors have reported placing trips on hold due to fears of being barred from reentry, and scientific conferences have been canceled since many attendees were unable to enter or leave the United States.
For the scientific and medical fields, the effects of the ban are already becoming evident. Of the international students studying in the U.S. in 2016, 43 percent of Saudi Arabian students and 78 percent of Iranian students were enrolled in STEM programs. These students come to America to be educated, and many of them are the future of medical advances against diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
The opportunity hasn’t gone unnoticed by countries that compete with the United States for leadership in international higher education. Several countries in Asia have indicated that they would take in students affected by the policy, and organizations that place students abroad have reported that Germany, Singapore, Canada and Australia have become more appealing destinations for students worried about their status in the U.S.
Educational institutions in the U.S. and abroad have expressed their concerns over the effects that this policy will have on the future of global education. In addition, many U.S. universities have advised international students and faculty members to postpone any trips abroad in case they are barred from reentering the country.
The future of international higher education in the wake of this ban is bleak. It is, therefore, imperative that the Trump administration reconsider this policy which could have devastating effects on citizens of affected countries as well as on the United States’ status as a leader in education and advancement.
– Eva Kennedy