Donald Trump is already prompting immigrants and international students to reconsider their plans to work or study in the United States. Since his election, there have been multiple media reports about foreign students and workers foregoing coming to the U.S, flocking instead to countries like Canada, Germany, or China.
A president who is openly hostile to immigrants and an administration that scapegoats immigration as the crux of all social ills unsurprisingly will cut university enrollments, dry up revenue for both universities and local governments, and hurt the American economy by pushing away top global talent.
A 2015 study found that sixty percent of international prospective students would be less likely to attend schools in the United States if Trump was elected. Those fears are now a reality.
The New York Times reports that Canadian universities detected a post-election surge in interest from overseas applications. In the report, Rahul Choudaha, an international education consultant in New Jersey, explains there is a palpable worry among students and their parents in India. He says prospective students, “are not seeing the United States as a safe destination. They’re changing the destination to Australia or Singapore.”
A twenty-one year old student applying to graduate programs in pharmaceutical science said, “It’s the main topic of conversation among my friends. They don’t want to apply to the U.S. under Trump.” Another student is quoted saying, “I’m thinking of applying to Canada.”
Not only is Trump scaring off potential student immigrants from applying, but those that are considering U.S. universities are worried that even if accepted, the processing delays will result in missing classes or a delayed start. Admed Ezzeldin Mohamed, a political science Ph.D student at Columbia University, said Middle Eastern students fear increased screening and processing delays for them to come to the U.S. He said that delaying school because of security checks will push him elsewhere.
Ellen Rudnick, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago said, “I have students whose visas will be up soon. One student is already thinking of moving to Canada. They’re all scared.”
An inhospitable climate for foreign students will hurt the U.S. economy. As the The Migration Policy Institute has reported, the United States is the “top global destination for international students,” and in 2016—for the first time—passed the one million international student threshold. This clearly benefits the U.S. economically.
The National Association of International Educators found that in the 2014-2015 academic year, foreign students and their dependents contributed about $30 billion to the American economy, supporting more than 373,000 jobs.
Moreover, it’s not just native-born students who would suffer from a reduction in foreign students. Internationals students often pay full tuition and help subsidize native-born students’ education. Moody’s estimates that foreign students pay ten percent of all paid tuition, but only make up five percent of students. Therefore, schools, American students, workers at universities, and the surrounding communities suffer with less revenues coming in.
The only winners of the Trump Effect are the countries poised to capitalize on the sudden influx of diverted talent the U.S. is passing up.
This phenomenon extends beyond students. As Wired reported, “Trump’s immigration crackdown could spark tech brain drain.” and CNN reported, “uncertainty over Trump’s immigration policy leads foreign engineers to ditch startups”.
China, Canada, and Germany are actively trying to cash in on our anti-immigrant mentality by recruiting high-skilled immigrants that are now forgoing America’s visa programs. The United States’ economy is so powerful, in part, because of our ability to attract and retain some of the best and brightest talent. Although we are currently winning the global fight for talent, this will be in danger under a Trump presidency.
In response to Steve Bannon’s comments that there are too many foreign CEOs in Silicon Valley, Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, noted last month: “I hope that talent in all countries can come to China, and give us a more important role on the stage of global innovation” and continued, “the global center of innovation is shifting”.
Avinash Conda, a senior manager at Shutterfly, said that because of Trump’s immigration perspectives he will, “definitely have to visit my three-year, five-year career plan within the next six months”.
Rishi Shah, CEO of ContextMedia in Chicago, argued, “If the Trump administration curbs talent, especially high-tech workers, companies will go and take that economic growth and shift it to other markets,” and continued “there would be nothing worse for American workers than to curb the inflow of talent that would further grow our economy.”
Restrictive policy priorities and vitriolic rhetoric are a dangerous mix. The political climate Trump has ushered in makes it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the foreign students that make up our campuses and the workers that build our companies. The lack of inclusiveness and respect, open hostility to immigrants, and rise in hate crimes does not happen without consequence.
The evidence is clear that foreign students, entrepreneurs, and workers are re-thinking plans to participate in the American economy because of Donald Trump, casting the U.S. on the losing side of the global fight for talent.