Earlier this month the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a new set of regulations according to which foreign students attending U.S. colleges that would operate entirely online for this fall semester cannot remain in the country any longer to do so. They will have to move back to their respective nations. Students all around the world, and in the U.S., are contemplating as to how their upcoming semester will look like, while the federal guidelines had left the international students with an uncomfortable choice- either attend classes in person during a pandemic or take them online from another nation. But this decision would increase the tuition fee paid by the American students manifold. It would not only affect 1.1 million international students but also cost thousands of jobs across the nation.

What would have been the fate of international students if the regulation prevailed?

In the academic year 2018-19, 1.1 million foreign students attended higher education institutions in the U.S., constituting 5.5% of the total higher education enrolment in the U.S. After the announcement, more than 10 colleges and universities had released their plan of action for the fall semester regarding offline and online classes. More than half of the institutes decided to continue in-person classes.

Many institutions had yet not decided whether they would continue to have in-person classes or have a hybrid of online and offline sessions. Institutions that would allow a mixture of offline and online classes will have to clarify that an international immigrant student is not taking more than one class or three credits online.  Some schools and colleges would have to scramble to develop alternatives for foreign students without breaking the rules of the state. Though the immigration order issued by the ICE was likely to affect just a fraction of the total number of students, the top two universities went up to the court trying to stop it.

The financial contribution of international students to the institutes they study in

Financial contributions of the foreign students are benefactor for some schools and institutions as they pay tuition bills much higher than the local students. Foreign students often appear to increase domestic enrolment- a by-product of cross-subsidization. In some top universities, the number of foreign enrolment is so high that they have become dependent upon the revenue coming from their enrolment to operate. Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, University of Rochester, NYU, all elite and premier institutes, have over 20% foreign enrolment. Many premier public universities, like the University of Washington, UC-San Diego, UC Davis, University of Illinois, etc, have international enrolments over 15%.

Considering that the colleges and universities are the largest employers in 1 out of every 5 states and that they are already reeling under heavy financial loss due to the pandemic- they are to receive a severe blow in finances if funds stop coming from foreign students. Many institutes had to cut down their overall budget, disrupt research programs, cancel athletic because of the refunds they had to give to the students during the spring of 2020. Others are merely waiting to see if they can fulfill their fall semester enrolment or not. More than 200 colleges and universities have announced numerous contract non-renewals and layoffs of several employees. The United States is now under testing times, as it is fighting a hard battle to tackle its biggest public health crisis in a century and overcome record unemployment at the same time. Many colleges and universities are in an impossible situation as the increase in the number of contact classes will further spread the coronavirus disease.

Impact of the regulation on their local communities- jobs and future trade relations

The impact of these regulations does not only affect the immigrant students but also the local communities they live in. Not only they pay high tuition bills that lower the tuition bills of the local American students but also a considerable amount of support comes from them in the real estate markets and local jobs. During 2018-19 foreign students supported around 460,000 jobs. Most of these jobs are associated with the higher education sector, but also benefit the accommodation, retail, transport, and health insurance sectors as well. The academic talents of these students help advance the country’s scientific discoveries, which are needed now more than ever. If this fallout continues, students will choose to study in other countries like Australia, New Zealand, where the policies are rather welcoming

The United States would just not lose out on the tuition fees but also it would have left a significant impact on its influence in the world. As students, foreign immigrants establish personal ties and often return home as unofficial ambassadors for the United States. Foreign alumni would more likely look forward to trade agreements with the U.S. and exert influence abroad which would benefit the interests of the United States. The share of international students studying in the U.S. has considerably declined from 28% in the year 2001 to 21% in 2019. Other countries, especially China, have made significant gains in attracting students from abroad. The new guidelines of ICE cleared the path for other nations to attract more students, who might have otherwise studied in the United States.

International students influence the real estate market

China, India, and Saudi Arabia are the top three contributors in the United States foreign Student body- China being the largest of them all. The foreign students impact the real estate market quite as well. Real estate purchases from Chinese citizens hit a whopping $30 billion in the financial year 2017 – 2018. 10% of these purchases are made for the use of students – the highest portion for any international buyers. But the National Association of Realtors’ reports says that it fell to $13.4 billion in the next 12 months. This has been a result of the newly emerged US-China frictions.

Trump administration rescinds rules on foreign students

Sending the foreign students back would have hurt the US economy. And this explains why universities across the nation had come together and filed lawsuits against the Trump Administration, seeking to halt this move. Harvard and MIT were among the first to file a lawsuit against this regulation on the 8th of July. On 11th July California followed with its lawsuit. Two days later, 60 Universities, including that of Yale and Princeton, filed a brief in support of MIT and Harvard. The same day, 17 US states and the district of Columbia file another lawsuit regarding the same. And on Tuesday (July 14th), many big technology firms, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, came out in support of the Harvard and MIT lawsuit. They argued that the future competitiveness of America lies in attracting and retaining talented international students. Finally, on the 15th of July IST 12:30 am (14th July EST 3 pm) federal officials said that they are providing leniency by allowing international students to keep their visas even if they study online from abroad.