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Fading Beacon

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If America ultimately cedes its place as the world leader in international education, that will affect diplomacy, the economy, and the health of colleges and universities nationwide.

Credit: Rachel Sender/The Chronicle of Higher Education

American higher education has long prided itself on being a brilliant beacon, attracting generations of students from around the globe.

They come for education and for opportunity. Many, having established ties to America, return home to take roles in academe, business, or government. No country has trained more foreign leaders than the United States.

Others stay, becoming a critical part of the American talent infrastructure. They fill our faculty offices, our laboratories, our boardrooms. One in five entrepreneurs who founded start-ups in the United States is an immigrant — and three-quarters of them first came to America as students. While they were enrolled, they brought diversity and millions in revenue to their campuses.

But that beacon, bright for decades, may have begun to dim. The Trump administration, with its America First policies and bellicose rhetoric, sent the message that foreign students were not welcome. Then the Covid-19 pandemic shut the country's borders. Last year's decline in international students — the U.S. government reported an 18-percent drop in overall student-visa holders and a 72-percent decrease in new enrollments in 2020 — is without precedent.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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