Despite travel ban, foreign students still want to go to the US - study
Institutions worry most whether their admitted candidates from the Middle East will arrive on campus this fall. Source: Shutterstock

A national study of admissions officers has revealed there is still interest among foreign applicants to study at American higher education institutions, at a steady rate comparable to before, reports Washington Post.

The situation is not as dire as predicted after the backlash that ensued after United States President Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens for several Muslim-majority countries earlier this year, according to the study by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

“The entire calendar year has been marked by a great deal of anxiety and concern, as well as speculation, in the higher education sector about whether everything happening nationally may have a significant negative impact on international student enrollment this fall,” IIE Rajika Bhandari said.

The survey on 165 colleges and universities is a “snapshot”, Bhandari says, of the evolving situation, at least as of May.

A view of the Harvard University in the US. Source: Shutterstock

The original travel ban prohibited all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – from entering the US for 90 days. Iraq was later dropped from the list, but the ban remained in flux from several legal hurdles in its lower courts.

Early last week, the US Supreme Court ruled to allow Trump’s revised travel ban to be implemented in parts – Credible applicants who can prove a “bona fide relationship” with a US person or entity will now be exempted from the ban.

Yet, the report found as far as Fall 2017 admissions go, the demand is still steady among foreign applicants.

While numbers of international students have dropped from 26 to 24 percent, the decline is said to mirror the drop in the percentage of domestic students committing to attend, which fell from 30 to 28 percent over the same time period.

The outlook isn’t as positive at the state level, however, with Texas seeing a sizable decrease from 44 to 35 percent from the prior year. However, enrolment at the other top host states – California, New York, Massachusetts – remained steady.

At the graduate level, nearly half of the universities (46 percent) reported a fall in the number of foreign applicants committing to attend.

Institutions worry most whether their admitted candidates from the Middle East will arrive on campus this fall, the report says, adding despite the Supreme Court ruling, broad concerns still remain thanks to the uncertainty that still looms until the next court review, as well as the prospect of “extreme vetting” of visa applicants

Middle Eastern students report similar worries to this, with equal concerns over whether they will feel welcome in the US.

Among prospective Indian students, the top concern among institutions lies in their physical safety, whereas Chinese and other Asian students (excluding those from India) reportedly worry most about post-graduation employment opportunities and programme affordability.

The survey was conducted by IIE in partnership with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission OfficersAACRAO), the Council of Graduate Schools, the National Association for College Admission Counseling and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

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