Can international education survive “America First?”

International students have long viewed the United States as a place where they can get a meaningful graduate or undergraduate degree. According to Nora S. Khachetourians, the director of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, the attraction of the United States to these students can be for the legitimacy and prestige of a degree from an American school, the flexibility of courses, both in variety and schedule, the experience of visiting the US and American College Life, availability of advanced technologies, and the marketability of having language skills in a competitive field.

Recently as the political climate in our country has changed there has been a noticeable drop in the number of international students applying to attend these schools. Boston’s local NPR station discussed the matter on All Things Considered:

“Our institutions are very concerned,” says Melanie Gottlieb, deputy director with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, which surveyed nearly 300 colleges to understand the early effects of President Trump’s immigration policies.

Four in 10 of the colleges that responded say they have seen a drop in applications from around the globe. Nearly 80 percent expressed concerns about application yield.


The shifts in American policy have made some other countries: Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, for example, more attractive to some international students. The NBC affiliate station for Des Moines, Iowa, WH013 reported a similar occurrence at Iowa State University:

The school says it has received 20% fewer international applications than the year before. Forty percent of colleges across the country also report reduced interest from international students, and ISU says the reason why is clear.

“Some of our students are just concerned about safety and how welcome they’re going to be in the community. So with the executive orders issued, it has some of them a little concerned about will they be welcomed once they get to the U.S.,” said Director of Admissions Katharine Johnson Suski.

The executive orders aimed at stopping travel from several predominantly Muslim countries and President Trump’s campaign stance on China is not going unnoticed by potential students. ISU’s applications from China are down 30%, and those from predominantly Muslim countries are down 60% to 80%.

While the original ban was pulled, the new legislation proposed maintains the ban from most of the nations mentioned in the first law, excluding Iraq:  Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In February, the DU Newsroom posted a story on the effect the ban was having on one of DU’s international students from Iran:

“I feel like a prisoner who is not allowed to leave the country but also not allowed to have a visitor,” says doctoral student Rozhin Eskandarpour (MS ’16) who is studying power systems and microgrids at the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. “It has been four years since I have seen my elderly parents. They had an appointment with the U.S. embassy to get visiting visas, but after this order, the embassy canceled their appointments.”

I asked Fedor Shishkov an international studies major from St. Petersburg, what the benefits are the coming into the United States for education “Better diploma.” He replied curtly “if I were to come back home I would be paid way better.” He also said it was valuable to learn a second language. I then asked if he could feel the change in the political climate: “I witness a struggle and low cooperation between the two parties. When I came to America, Obama was still president.” I asked him if he thought traveling from his home in Russia to America would become more difficult, with the current tensions between his own country and the United States, Fedor remained optimistic “Instead of becoming harder, I’m hoping to see it become easier in the future.”


Fedor Shishkov



Ahmad Almutairi is a law major from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ahmad was in the ELC program at DU, and now is heading to George Washington University in DC to study international law. I asked him if he could quantify what political change he could feel in the USA and he simply replied: “I don’t feel safe.”


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