• Ishita Agarwal

The American Dream has been put on hold



The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted college students across the world as all the classes suddenly got shifted to being on zoom, resulting in us yelling out “MUTE YOURSELF” every so often during our classes. The unfavourable side of online instruction has got every college student waiting for their universities to announce final plans for the reopening of their campuses for Fall 2020. Clinging to the sliver of hope, that their lives might be able to return to normal, once their classes start back up.


However, it seems for international students staying in the US, the Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency (ICE) had different plans as they released new guidelines on the 6th of July, 2020.


Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency (ICE) in action.

These guidelines state that for international students staying in the US on F-1 and M-1 visas, they cannot continue staying in the country if their institute is only offering fully online Fall 2020 semesters. The impact this has on international students enrolled in such programs is tremendous as they must either transfer to a different university which is offering in-person classes to maintain their visa status or leave the US before their semesters start. Put another way- more than 1 million international students that currently live and study in the US could be forced to leave the country in the middle of a global pandemic. Although this policy has since been reversed, it is interesting to see how sizably inhibiting international students to study and work in the US can impact the country’s economy.

Prospective impacts of the guideline on the US economy


These new guidelines came as a shock, as the US is very commonly hailed as the Holy Grail of higher education. With over 50% of the world’s top universities housed in the US, the reputation of the higher education institutes is unmatched currently. The country is at the forefront of technological, social and cultural innovation- mostly owing to its high population of international students. However, this directive is just another one in the long line of attacks issued against immigrants and international students done by the Trump administration in order to preserve American jobs for Americans only.

Economic contribution and job creation due to the influx of international students to the United States.

With educational exports valued at approximately $40 billion, international students are a very valuable economic asset, putting the US in an enviable position. These students pay full tuition and therefore provide funds for their universities to fund their in-state students and the groundbreaking research facilities that they have. This international student tuition ranges from $23,000- $40,000/p.a. Without this higher tuition, higher education institutes will be forced to raise the already very high tuition to maintain their facilities for in-state tuition. This will have devastating effects on the number of student loans these individuals will have in the near future.


This loss of tuition and international student enrollment will also hurt the US economy making it much weaker. In 2018, these students contributed $45 billion to the US economy, with fewer enrollments of international students, the tax revenue of central and state governments and local businesses will decline sharply this will also increase job losses. Considering the impending economic recession that is going to happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with this loss of huge sources of revenue, the US economy is going to suffer significantly.


International students usually take up highly skilled jobs that a very small percentage of the population can do, almost 40% of American Nobel prize winners in physics, chemistry and medicine since 2000, were immigrants. 23% of all billion-dollar startups in the US were founded by international students. These success rates of international students in the US have a huge bearing on the new cultural ideas they bring in, accentuated with the exemplary education and opportunities that the US gives them.

Proportion of international students by Nationality in the United States

Around 1 in 5 jobs in the US are tied to international trade and employers value workers that can work across national and cultural borders. According to NAFSA’s 2019 analysis, 455,000 US jobs are filled by international students. Startup companies fill in critical, high skilled positions by hiring students on an Optional Training Program (OPT) which allows these students to gain practical experience by temporarily working in the US. Without international students, US employers will have a much harder time filing jobs and could result in companies relocating to look for talent in other countries.


The decline of international students is going to affect the US’s status as a hub for technological and scientific innovation and result in fewer jobs.


With more than 300 current and former world leaders, starting out as international students in the US, these international students can boast about having a great network of connections and an appreciation for US culture. This promotes the US ability to touch and influence the minds and hearts of these future world leaders and maintains the country’s position as a world leader.


Inhibiting international students from studying and working in the country is going to significantly reduce and impact the US influence upon the world and its competitiveness on the global stage.

With an astounding 5.5% of the higher education population being international students, big institutes like Harvard, MIT and the UC system did push back by filing lawsuits against the Trump administration. Therefore, the Trump administration did rescind its policy. However, the number of new student enrollment in the US had been declining for the past three years- from 300,743 in 2015-16 to 269,232 in 2018-19, the effect this policy will have is irreversible. Potentially resulting in even larger drops in enrollment over the next couple of years.


With every other country becoming more open to immigrants and providing more after graduation job opportunities, it remains to be seen how much this policy will really impact the US economy. Will the US continue to remain at the forefront of global innovation?



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