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Trump takes a u-turn on his decision to strip visas from international students

Persuaded by dozens of colleges and US states, the federal government has swiftly rescinded a policy move that would have left international students stranded.

Trump takes a u-turn on his decision to strip visas from international students
Image Source: President Trump Holds A media Conference At The White House. WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 14. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Trump administration has rescinded its decision to strip F1 visas from international students if they enroll only in online classes this upcoming fall. The decision to do so, a rare but swift policy shift, was prompted after dozens of universities criticized the move. Silicon Valley and 20 states also joined in on the "snowballing opposition," The New York Times reports. The loss of international students, considered "cash cows" for many academic institutions, would have cost universities millions of dollars and affected the ability of many American companies to hire highly skilled workers at a fraction of the cost of American students.


It is estimated that every academic year about one million international students enroll in American universities. In addition to contributing $41 billion to the economy annually, they support more than 458,000 jobs. Despite this, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said in an interview with CNN when the policy was initially announced, "If they’re not going to be a student or they’re going to be 100 percent online, then they don’t have a basis to be here. They should go home, and then they can return when the school opens." There was, of course, an immediate uproar from both universities as well as students on the matter.


Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both of which have planned mostly online classes for students in light of the ongoing pandemic, were the first to challenge the new visa rules in court. Several other prestigious institutions such as Cornell, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania joined the appeal, along with many US states and Silicon Valley, dominated in large part by engineering and computer science students from the Global South. The u-turn on the policy move was warmly welcomed by all, including Harvard president Lawrence S. Bacow. He affirmed in a statement, "This is a significant victory. The directive had disrupted all of American higher education. I have heard from countless international students who said that the July 6 directive had put them at serious risk. These students—our students—can now rest easier and focus on their education, which is all they ever wanted to do."


While the United States may have believed that their country was doing more to benefit international students, it is, quite honestly, the other way around. Not only do wealthy international pupils add greatly to the economy with their high tuition fees (higher than the fees paid by American students) and contributions to the American job market, they also have significant impacts on the country's multiculturalism. Universities are able to boast of a "diverse" and "inclusive" student body thanks to the hardworking, intelligent students who bring along their cultures from abroad. Further to this, much of the nation's research and innovation have been attributed to international students. L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, highlighted “the important role international students play in our education, research, and innovation enterprises here in the United States." He stated, "These students make us stronger, and we hurt ourselves when we alienate them.”


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