Why So Many Foreign Students Come to the USA to Get Higher Education?

The USA still performs very well in global university rankings, with far more ‘top’ universities than any other country.  The ‘best’ American universities are also considered best among global universities. Hence students from all over the world come to the USA to get a taste of world-class education.US Universities are used to hosting huge numbers of foreign students from countries across the world. There used to be room for everyone, in a diverse academic community.

International Student Enrollment Statistics from EDUCATIONDATA.ORG

  • In 2019, the total number of international students enrolled in US colleges was 1,095,299, making up 5%of the total US student body:
  • 431,930 undergraduate students, a -2.4% decrease from 2018
  • 377,943 graduate students, a -1.3% decrease from 2018
  • 62,341 non-degree students, a -5.0% decrease from 2018
  • 223,085 Optional Practical Training (OPT)workers, a 9.6% increase from 2018
  • Foreign students who made up 12% of the total student population contributed nearly 30% of total tuition revenue at public universities in 2015
  • In 2018, the total contribution to the US economy by international students was estimated to be over $45 billion

The top US schools Hosting students in 2019 were:

  • New York University, with 19,605 students
  • University of Southern California Los Angeles, with 16,340 students
  • Northeastern University, with 16,075 students
  • Columbia University, with 15,897
  • University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, with 13,497 students
  • In 2018, there were 86,300 international students enrolled in US community colleges
  • Since 2001, the population of international students enrolled in higher education courses away from their home of origin has increased from 2.1 million to 5.3 million

In 2019, the Highest International Student Populations in the US by Their Nation of Origin Were:

    • China, with 369,548 students
    • India, with 202,014 students
    • South Korea, with 52,250 students
    • Saudi Arabia, with 37,080 students
    • Canada, with 26,122 students

Fun fact: 62 world leaders were enrolled in US colleges.

What Is An F1 visa?

  • An F1 visa is issued to international students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program at a US college or university
  • F1 students must maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status
  • They can remain in the US for up to 60 days beyond the length of time it takes to complete their academic program
  • They have to be approved to stay and work for a period of time under the OPT Program

What Are The Criteria for Obtaining F1 or M1 Visa?

You may enter in the F-1 or M-1 visa category provided you meet the following criteria:

  • You must be enrolled in an “academic” educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
  • Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
  • You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
  • You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study
  • You must maintain a residence abroad which you have no intention of giving up
  • The M-1 visa (Vocational Student) category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training

Can I Take Online Classes with F1 Visa During Covid19?

Yes, you can now. We will discuss in brief how that has become possible for the time being. On July 6, 2020, Trump Administration decided to issue a directive for F1 and M1 students: It would have stripped international college students of their U.S. visas if their coursework was entirely online.

Why Was Trump’s Directive Problematic?

  • A directive would have stripped international college students of their U.S. visas if their coursework was entirely online
  • It prompted widespread confusion among international students as universities scrambled to clarify their statuses and universities reassessed their fall reopening policies amidst the coronavirus pandemic
  • The effect might have dramatically reduced the number of international students enrolling in the fall
  • This might also have discouraged foreign students from attending American universities, where they often pay full tuition
  • This would probably result in budget cuts at many schools, which have already suffered financially during the pandemic

According to Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations for NumbersUSA, a group that lobbies for fewer immigrants in the United States:

 – -“by forcing international students to leave the country, the new rule could help close a pipeline of students who obtain authorization to temporarily work in the United States for 12 months after graduation”.

Why It Was Still Cruel and Unfair for Students and Universities?

Universities abruptly close their campuses due to Corona Virus outbreak from mid-March:

  • Previous rule offered those students flexibility, allowing them to remain legally in the United States
  • If students attending universities with online classes wished to remain in the country, they had to transfer to an institution that offers in-person courses, which is virtually impossible given the short notice
  • The policy, which would have subjected foreign students to deportation if they did not show up for a class on campus
  • This would have jeopardized autonomy of universities and the health of American students
  • Universities had to scramble to offer in-person classes which might have posed a serious health risk to other students and university employees
  • The loss of international students could have cost universities millions of dollars in lost tuition
  • It would have jeopardized the ability of U.S. companies to hire highly skilled workers who often start their careers with an American education

How Did the Plan to Strip Student Visas Get Rescinded?

  • Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed the first of a litany of lawsuits seeking to block it on July 8th, 2020
  • The attorneys general of 20 states, including Massachusetts and California, also sued, charging that the policy was reckless, cruel and senseless
  • Other universities threw their support behind the litigation, along with organizations representing international students
  • More than a dozen technology companies, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, also came out in support of the lawsuit, arguing that the policy would harm their businesses
  • on Tuesday, 15 Republican members of Congress signed a letter urging the Trump administration to restore its previous policy on international students

It was a sigh of relief for University officials: when the announcement about policy rescindment was made. They also warned: that they will be prepared to go back to court again if the administration restricts the ability of the foreign students to take online classes under extraordinary circumstances like the COVID-19 outbreak.