Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Economic Benefits of Foreign Students

Yesterday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly known as ICE, announced changes to the temporary exemptions being provided for nonimmigrant students taking online courses due to the pandemic during Fall Semester 2020.  As described at https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during, M-1 and F-1 visas will not be issued for students to enter the United States if they are enrolled at a school or program that is fully online.  Students currently in the United States on F-1 and M-1 visa who are enrolled in such a school or program must leave the country or transfer to a school with in-person instruction. 

This is a cruel and xenophobic policy that also makes very little sense economically.  The United States benefits greatly from attracting the world's greatest minds, but also, these students pay tuition and spend money in the United States.  Detailed information about the economic benefits of foreign students is avialable from NAFSA: Associations of International Educators (see https://www.nafsa.org/policy-and-advocacy/policy-resources/nafsa-international-student-economic-value-tool-v2).  In Utah, for example, there are almost 8,000 foreign students, providing cumulative economic benefits of over $200 million by paying tuition, renting apartments, dining out, making retail purchases, etc. 

Source: NAFSA


  1. Yes, this policy is somewhat of a head-scratcher. But, it is consistent with the xenophobic views of POTUS. As you say these students spend money. I cannot see how there is any cost to the gov. The only rational case that I can see is the idea that a student would not need to be in the US to take an online only class, so why grant a visa. But, that is a stretch. No, it just another knee-jerk decision.

    1. The reality is that there are a lot of challenges taking online classes at a US institution from outside the US.

      Many web sites and programs are not accessible in other countries for a variety of reasons. For example, they might be censored by the government (e.g., China) or the US web site might not meeting regulations (see the EU - you can't access the Salt Lake Tribune site in Europe for example). This means a great deal of web content that might be used for an online class is inaccessible.

      In some parts of the world, the internet is better than it is in the US, but in others, it isn't, and this creates a hardship as well.

      Finally, for synchronous classes, there is the time difference. It's little fun taking a class a 2 AM.