Michigan State University’s international student population has started to decline. After a constant increase of students since 1950, there was a decrease of 78 students from 2014 to 2015 and a decline of 308 students from 2015 to 2016.This reflects a national trend with more than 40 percent of U.S. universities reporting declining international student enrollment.
Takashi Iwasaki, a J-1 Visa student advisor in the MSU Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS), says that this change is due to the increasing tuition for international students.
“Many countries’ current economic status can’t really keep up with the increasing rates, because their currency has grown weaker against the American dollar,” he said. Iwasaki’s comments are supported by Investopedia’s 2016 report on weakened currencies.
Iwasaki said, “We’re also losing students from the Middle East due to cuts in their local government funding or scholarships,” Two big countries that have slashed their scholarships include Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iwasaki added that there has been an increase of respectability or power with overseas universities in Australia and New Zealand.
“An American degree used to mean a lot where I’m from,” said Jenna Jia, a student from China. “Though I feel like nowadays that is not really the case anymore and it’s just about getting a degree from anywhere overseas,”
What this drop could mean financially
In its 2016 Statistical Report, OISS reported that MSU’s international students, who make 14 percent of MSU’s student body, contribute an estimated $308 million to the greater Lansing economy. International students are a major source of revenue for MSU, and so if these numbers decrease, the university might have to look at other means such as increasing in-state student tuition, although Iwasaki believes that would be one of the last efforts.
Future international student enrollment
Is this a trend or a blip? Amber Cordell, Educational Programs Manager for OISS, said, “I don’t think it’s accurate to say that we’ll have a plummeting number of new international students next year,” She said.
Cordell said she would not be know those numbers till mid-summer. “We do have a lower number of applicants this year,” She said. “But we used to have a higher number of applicants but a lower number of accepted applicants. So, this time what we might have is that we’ll have a lower number of applicants but a higher number of accepted applicants. With that, I think our total number of students will stay the same.”
The Trump Effect
After Donald Trump became president, there was an uproar from many student groups at MSU. From protests on the day of Trump’s inauguration to rallies held after the announcement of his immigration ban, international students find their rights and even their well-beings at risk. Juan-Carlos Hernandez, a student from Mexico, woke up the morning after Election Day to students chanting “Build the wall!” right outside his dorm. Furthermore, Hernandez said he has been targeted frequently by scam callers pretending to be Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Trumps has consistently been demonizing immigrants since he first started campaigning so I can’t even imagine how much worse it’ll get,” Hernandez said. He also said that he ‘wasn’t going to stick around to find out’ and is planning to move out of the country as soon as he graduates.
Hernandez’ situation does not apply to all international students. Jia said more students from China will start coming to America to study with the new administration. “Trump’s new policies does not really affect people like me,” She said. “So, I don’t think it’ll affect student numbers from China.”
Natashia Evelyn, a student from Indonesia, shares Jia’s views, although she is concerned that the new administration will eventually make it much harder for her to work in the States after graduation. “If he makes it harder, I feel it’ll just push away more international students from studying in America,” said Evelyn.
Iwasaki said it would take a lot of time for Trump’s administration to affect international student enrollment. “Possibly years,” He said. Major deciding factors for the coming years would be based on the economic climate.
Trump’s new executive order on H-1B visas
Trump has recently announced that he has planned a new executive order that could restrict H-1B visas. H-1B visas are temporary visas to foreign workers working specialized jobs in the US. Iwasaki said the announcement has not really caused a stir among international students. However, Iwasaki is nervous about what the new executive order will contain since he himself is a H-1B visa holder. He also said, “It is too soon see if this new executive order will make a huge impact on international student numbers.”
How MSU treats international students
Hernandez said MSU has done a very good job at being inclusive to international students but said “There is only so much they can do.” He commended MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon’s statements regarding Trump’s immigration ban.
After Trump announced his executive order on Jan. 26, Simon released a statement that said: “We must protect our borders, but we also must ensure we do not stem the flow of people of goodwill who come and work to make this nation better.”
Evelyn said that while the school does a good job at being inclusive, it has a long way to go to become really welcoming to international students.
Since the new administration began, OISS has organized events such as workshops or rallies for international students. Furthermore, the office has started a campaign called “You Are Welcome Here” and released two videos supporting international students. Both videos has been uploaded to the office’s Facebook account. It is a campaign strongly supported by Cordell, who wrote the script for the first video.
Cordell has been a champion for international students and posted her support for them through social media. After Trump’s immigration ban was announced, Cordell posted her email on a public Facebook post for anyone affected by the ban to contact her for any help. On Jan 29. Cordell posted these words for MSU’s international students: “It’s a blessing and a curse to care about you all so much. You have no idea the depths of my love, but just know I will never stop fighting for you!”
All statistics and numbers were provided by the OISS’ annual statistical reports.