Open channels edition
A reason for optimism when it comes to international students?
On Immigration, the Administration’s Ear
When President Trump issued an executive order barring visitors from seven Muslim majority countries at the end of his first week in office, the move was so abrupt that it caught some travelers in mid-air – they had boarded their flights with a valid visa and landed without one.
It was so sudden that even administration officials were unsure whether it applied to green-card holders or dual nationals.
And there certainly was no heads-up for American colleges, who suddenly had 20,000 students and scholars stuck in legal limbo.
But there were few surprises when President Trump stood in the Rose Garden on Thursday and outlined his plan to remake the immigration system to emphasize skills-based migrants. That’s because its contours followed those laid out two months earlier in a White House meeting with universities and higher-ed associations:
Representatives from the American Council on Education had also been among a group of largely business leaders briefed by the administration last week ahead of the rollout. In fact, higher ed officials have been in regular communication with the White House since March, providing staffers information about the impact of international students and graduates, Sarah Spreitzer, director of government and public affairs at ACE, told me when we got on the phone late Thursday.
So when the president said, “If a student graduates #1 from the best college, we say, sorry, you're going to have to go back. We can't keep you here. We discriminate against genius. We discriminate against brilliance." Maybe that statement was informed, just a little, by the knowledge that international students have a $39 billion-with-a-B impact? Maybe there was some comprehension most of the students U.S. colleges educate go home because the H1-B cap hasn’t been increased in nearly 15 years?
A couple of people have suggested to me that the administration might have been trying to co-opt higher ed to give legitimacy to the president’s proposal
If so, I’m not sure if they were successful – the word “disappointed” was featured prominently in statements from ACE and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, specifically about the administration’s failure to address the legal status of Dreamers, the students and young adults brought as children to the United States. And Spreitzer told me that while ACE backs the whole stapling-a-green-card-to-the-diploma idea, skills-based immigration shouldn’t come at the expense of families. “We don’t see immigration as a zero-sum game,” she said.
What President Trump floated Thursday was an outline, not a bill. Given that immigration legislation is tough to move in times of relative comity I have trouble imaging what could get passed in hyper-divided Washington.
No matter what happens legislatively, Spreitzer said she and her colleagues will use the now-open channel on immigration to push efforts that could help stem the erosion of international enrollments. One idea: To get President Trump to issue a public statement reaffirming support for optional practical training, the post-graduate work program for international students. Fear that the administration could roll back the popular program has hurt international recruitment.
“That they’re talking to stakeholders,” Spreitzer said of the White House, “I don’t know where that leads, but it has to be hepful.”
I, too, am going to choose to be heartened that maybe the administration is listening more when it comes to international students. What about you? Send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Settling for Second?
The United States risks losing its status as the world’s leader in scientific research, a new report warns. China is on track to surpass America in expenditures on scientific research, while countries including Britain, Germany, and South Korea have national strategies for investment in R&D. Among some of the worrisome findings:
U.S. patent productivity has declined while that of East Asian countries, including Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan has increased,
The U.S. trails both China and the European Union in the number of science and engineering degrees it awards, and
China has overtaken the U.S. in its production of scientific papers.
The result could be a “second place America,” say the coalition of research universities, scientific organizations, and companies that issued the report.
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Around the Globe
The University of California regents voted to raise out-of-state tuition. The board originally balked at the 2.6 percent hike because of its potential impact on international students.
Williams College’s student government refused to recognize a pro-Israel student group as an official campus organization. College administrators overruled the decision.
A Saudi billionaire whose father endowed a chair in comparative religion at the American University in Cairo has pressured the institution to take the position away from an American scholar for teaching about religions other than Islam.
A group of University of Florida students were robbed at gunpoint in South Africa.
GOP lawmakers have introduced a bill to prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by the Chinese military from getting a student or research visa to the U.S.
Tens of thousands of Brazilians rallied against cuts to public education.
Here’s a troubling linguistic divide: Nearly half of white Republicans said they would be bothered to hear someone speaking a foreign language.
The headline on this article is a little misleading, but it makes an important point: There was lots of evidence that Chinese enrollments were going to slow down. Should colleges have been better prepared?
I’m always on the hunt for international-ed news. If you see something I might have missed, tweet me @karinfischer.
The countdown is on to NAFSA, and there’s a great thread going on Twitter about what you’d want to know if you were a conference newcomer. It’s chock full of smart advice, from exploring the expo hall to taking time for self-care to friction blister block stick. I might try this recommendation:
Seriously, have you ever been in a conference venue that’s not a bajillion degrees below zero?
If you’ll be at NAFSA, come say hello. I’ll be speaking during the week:
On Tuesday, May 28, at 10 a.m. I’ll be at the NAFSA Pavillion for a conversation about my recent Chronicle of Higher Education cover story about whether we’re at the end of an era for internationalization.
On Friday, May 31, at 8:30 a.m. I’ll join Darla Deardorff of AIEA and Jun Liu of Stony Brook University in 207B for a session on “Globalizing the Campus: How to Build Intercultural Competence.”
One of the underappreciated things about Washington is how great it is as a global food city. Luckily for everyone heading to NAFSA at this month, the Washington Post asked dozens of ambassadors posted in the capital where they go to eat when they want a taste of their home country’s cooking. While there are some wonderful recommendations – a Thai place in Arlington has a secret Mongolian menu!? – there are a few head scratchers, especially this one, from the ambassador from Colombia:
My staff gives me a hard time about it, but I’m a freak for Taco Bell. I go to the one in Union Station because it’s near the embassy. I chow down. I get Combo #1: a burrito supreme and hard-shell taco with Diet Pepsi and the red packet of salsa – fire, obviously. I went to college at the University of Texas at Austin and began eating Taco Bell there.
I lived in Washington longer than any other place, and when I get homesick for D.C., I crave the zingy northern Thai at Little Serow. Cut out of the conference early and stand on line – you might just see me there.
’Til next week – Karin
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