International Students Interpret a Different Message With Trump’s Travel Ban

Jeff Foot | 12-11-2017

President Donald Trump’s travel ban on eight countries has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The White House stated after a review of nearly 200 countries that the new policy will increase security for U.S. citizens. And, as most of us know, this is one of multiple issues that have created current political dissension in our country.

During 2017, multiple industries started to realize a negative impact to their operations due to the travel ban. One of these industries is higher education.

While most media attention has focused on the travel ban, there have been further actions to restrict and alter specialty occupation visas (i.e. H-1B visa) regulations. Also, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased Requests for Further Evidence (RFE) for international undergraduate and graduate students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT), a one-year practical training program designed to complement their education.

These moves by the White House have sent a clear message to potential globally mobile students: The USA is not nearly as welcoming as it has been in the past.

According to the latest issue of the Institute for International Education (IIE) report on the status of American inbound and outbound mobility, Open Doors®, these restrictions have negatively impacted inbound international student numbers amongst all but the most prestigious and in-demand universities, colleges, and schools. In fact, the number of first-time international students decreased by 3% in 2016/17, the first time that number has declined in the last 12 years.

The realization that federal decisions can impact demand so quickly is rather startling. It is my assertion that decisions narrowly intended to impact specific countries or visa classes havs wider implications.

These restrictions have also had a ripple effect on international advisors. Many must now serve as a knowledge center for other (usually higher level) administrators who do not understand how these decisions impact global mobility. International advisors are also being asked to provide strategic plans to weather the current climate and maintain enrollment.

At LewerMark, we help international students realize their dreams by covering them with substantive health insurance while they are here in school. We wholeheartedly support those who serve international education. We believe one of the best U.S. exports is not only a college education but the experience of our democratic culture. From our perspective, the only country being divided from others is this one. Bluntly banning certain humans from traveling to this country based solely on a nationality is a tactic based in fear.

We would rather engage others and support cross-cultural exploration and open borders to learning. We will rely on our better sentiments to uphold what nephew Fred said in Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol,

“… this is a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people unknown to them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

We wish everyone well in the coming year and look forward to creating new partnerships that expand international engagement and opportunity for those from all countries. It is our sincerest prayer that 2018 will be a brighter year for international education. We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season.




Author: Jeff Foot

Jeff Foot is the Executive Director at LewerMark and is responsible for developing new client relationships. He joined LewerMark after spending 17 years at Northwest Missouri State University where he served as Director of Admissions and International Affairs. While at the university he also served as International Affairs Director and Data Specialist for the Intercultural International Center. He has a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Missouri, a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from NMSU and a Bachelor of Arts Sociology from the University of New Brunswick in Canada. Foot also led the English as a Second Language Program at Byuk Sung College in South Korea from 1998 to 2000.