Dispatches from Association of International Recruitment Council (AIRC), Miami, FL

December 1st, 2016

I’m here in Miami, FL, at the annual AIRC Conference. International student recruiters, credential evaluators and admissions professionals are looking at the new President-Elect’s nationalist platform with caution wondering whether the new administration will have an adverse affect on the flow of international students to the U.S. Already we are hearing that the recent Brexit vote which led to the United Kingdom exiting the European Union has deterred international students from applying to universities in England. According to the annual Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education, “the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities grew by 7.1%, to top one million in the 2015-16 academic year.” The report records 10 straight years of growth in the number of international students studying at U.S. campuses, however with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, concern of the possible negative impact on future enrollments from abroad is on everyone’s mind.

We are already hearing the chatter that international students, fearing the new administration’s hard-right, nationalist, anti-globalist and xenophobic policies are looking to countries such as Australia and Canada to continue their studies. This collective cautiousness on the part of the international students and international education professionals is mainly because we know virtually nothing about the Trump Administration’s higher education policies as he has not articulated any specific initiatives or policies during his presidential campaign or even now in the days leading to his inauguration. The new administration will most likely be more friendly toward to the for-profit higher education industry and less interested in diversity and affirmative action. In fact, there is talk about monitoring university faculty whose teachings may have a “liberal” bias.  What is inevitable is that many of the initiatives of the Obama Administration will be scrapped.

Education on the international front will most likely take a hit. The image of the United States as a “welcoming country” for international students and scholars will be tarnished and it will take a long time to rebuild and restore it. Even though, Trump has singled out his ire toward Muslims and Mexicans, the sentiment is felt by all foreigners who see themselves as being targeted by this viewpoint.

The immediate future of U.S. higher education and international students may be bleak but one factor that will keep the American higher education system in the positive light is that it is still a strong and attractive option in the global perspective. Most of the top universities are located in blue states which embrace a friendlier and more hospitable outlook toward international students and scholars.

Here at AIRC and in meeting with international recruiters from the world and the U.S., it is evident that education agents are preparing themselves by ramping up their marketing efforts to keep the international students’ interest from waning and encouraging them to study in the U.S.  Attracting international students whose impression of the U.S. as an unwelcoming country under Donald Trump will be a challenging task for international recruiters. These are unchartered waters we are entering into as we see a wave of anti-globalism, nationalism and xenophobia appearing in not just the UK, US, but also in France, Spain, Austria, Germany, and Poland. The question is how we will navigate this unwelcoming and somewhat hostile environment in order to protect the integrity of U.S. higher education as the preferred destination for international students.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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