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What duty do US universities have to international students?

International students add huge value to the US. Source: Shutterstock.
International students add huge value to the US. Source: Shutterstock

The US is arguably the world’s most prestigious study abroad country – and don’t international students know it, flocking there in droves!

But in this past year, fewer students came to the US than the year before.

In recent years, campaigns including #YouAreWelcomeHere, set up by a group of US universities determined not to let Donald Trump’s election as President deter international students from packing their bags and heading to the US, have been set up.

Despite this, tightened visa regulations, high costs and a potentially hostile environment mean prospective and current international students in the US get far from an easy ride.

The Atlantic reported that a panel at the University of California, Berkeley earlier this week discussed the opinion that recruiting international students at private universities in the US is “problematic” when domestic students are reportedly unable to access four-year degrees.

Berkeley receives over 85,000 undergraduate applications each year, 15,500 of which are accepted, while typically around 9 percent of those are international students.

Seeing as Berkeley houses a relatively large international student population this may seem surprising, but the institution relies heavily on US taxpayer dollars. This has led to criticism, with Berkeley being accused of turning against its founding values as a “land-grant” university; there to serve the local community by focusing on recruiting international students.

Former university Presidents on the panel, however, disagreed with this notion, deeming the idea of college or university education being solely reserved for domestic students a foolish notion.

Berkeley School Chancellor Carol Christ claimed the university promises a well-rounded education, which should mean “a diverse student body that includes having students outside the state of California and other countries.

“It gives them global fluency, the ability to move across borders.”

She even went as far as to say that excluding international students from attending a university would compromise the institution’s “ultimate success.”

Yale President Peter Salovey agreed, claiming that the concept universities scoop up public funding to benefit those outside of the community without reinvesting it in society is unfounded.

He continued to explain that research and jobs universities produce are of great benefit to the local and national economy, stating that the US technology industry saw great success on Stanford University’s doorstep.

“We want to create the most dynamic, interesting, educationally fascinating environment that we can,” which certainly includes having a mix of different people with different perspectives from all over the world.

Former President of Franklin & Marshall College Daniel Porterfield said universities have as much of a duty to serve international students as domestic ones, adding that “globalization gives us a feeling of connectedness, but it also gives us a feeling of fragmentation.”

But higher education should be the one to piece together those fragments and ensure connectedness.

“America’s higher-education system is the best in the world,” The Atlantic reported Christ said.

Ensuring the country’s universities continue to serve students from other countries is “a wonderful way of maintaining America’s power […] in a constructive way,” she continued.

However, Salovey understands the concerns that universities are not doing enough for local communities, let alone for international students.

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