By: Michael Alles
Tasnim Jackson, a former CCNY student with a bachelor’s in biology, had a lot to say when asked about the sharp decrease in international student visas noted in a recent report by the Pew Research Center. “It’s like a snowball, his election, gun violence, attacks towards immigrants,” Jackson says, referring to President Donald Trump. “Immigrants definitely feel less welcome then in the past.”
On the campaign trail, President Trump called for a “total and complete” block on Muslims entering the United States. “Our country cannot be the victim of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad,” he said in March of 2016. In a closed meeting January of this year, Trump commented “why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” He was referring to Haiti and several African nations. In May, Trump said “you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are.” He continued to say “These aren’t people. These are animals,” in reference to immigrants crossing the southern border.
Trump’s comments, as well as his policies may have had serious consequences for colleges and universities across the United States. According to Pew, the number of newly enrolled international students for the 2016-2017 academic year declined by 3 percent. Estimates show nearly a 7 percent decrease for the 2017-2018 academic year.
At the University of Illinois, international students on average pay $5000 more in tuition than out-of-state students pay. A drop in international students has led to a decrease in revenue at the University of Illinois and others across the country, leading to cuts on programs, activities, professors, and other resources that benefit students.
Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American fact tank based in Washington, D.C., gives three reasons the number of international students coming to the United States are on the decline. First, the Saudi and Brazilian governments cut funding from programs that allowed tens of thousands of citizens to study overseas. Second, other countries such as Germany and Canada increased their competition with American colleges and universities for international students, making it easier for them to remain in their native countries and work there. Third, the Trump administration is taking the opposite approach of Germany and Canada, making it more difficult for students to remain in the country and work.
At the City College of New York, a campus with large numbers of international and first-generation students, opinions on the decline of international students all seemed to point to Trump. Toma F., a sophomore studying childhood education who did not want to reveal her last name for her own privacy, believes “It’s just Trump, he’s against any kind of migration.” Several CCNY students around her nodded their heads in agreement.
Jackson offered a different perspective. “[Trump] didn’t just appear; he had a significant support system,” she says. “People will think that if he won millions of votes, his opinions must be shared by millions of people.”
At CCNY, it seems hard to tell that the number of international students is declining at all. “I think CCNY is an excellent place for [international students],” Jackson says. “My absolute favorite thing about this place is that it’s so diverse, and there is so many people from so many places that speak so many languages.”