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May 27, 2020, 8:14 a.m. EDT

6 ways having fewer international students on college campuses hurts the U.S.

International students subsidize tuition for Americans and they create jobs

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By David L. Di Maria

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3. Less innovation

One of the strongest factors that influences future international scientific cooperation is having students study in different countries. This ability to collaborate across borders is critical to addressing the world’s greatest challenges , from combating climate change to eliminating COVID-19.

Additionally, economists at the World Bank estimate that a 10% increase in the number of international graduate students in the United States raises patent applications in the U.S. by 4.5% and university patent grants by 6.8%.

Worldwide, research and development is valued at nearly $2 trillion . The U.S. share of that research and development is smaller today than it was in 2000 . I believe having fewer international students will only serve to make it even smaller.

4. Job losses

One analysis found that international students support 455,000 U.S. jobs .

International students who participate in Optional Practical Training — a program that allows these students to gain practical experience in their field of study by working temporarily in the U.S. — help employers fill critical positions when they are unable to locate qualified U.S. workers. This is particularly true in certain science and engineering fields . The Trump administration is looking at putting restrictions on the program, it was reported on May 24 .

As international enrollment declines, U.S. employers will have a harder time filling jobs. This may lead companies to look for talent in other countries — or possibly relocate jobs abroad.

Read: Telemigrants are coming for your white-collar job, and a wall won’t stop them

5. Less exposure to diversity

When students interact with people from cultures other than their own, it enhances their ability to think more critically . It also reduces prejudice .

Since only 10% of U.S. students study abroad prior to earning their bachelor’s degree, international students play an important role in exposing U.S. students who never go abroad to international perspectives. In essence, international students bring the world to campus and increase access to global learning for all . The result is a more globally competent workforce, which is important considering that 1 in 5 jobs in the U.S. is tied to international trade and 9 3% of employers value employees who can work effectively across national and cultural boundaries.

6. Less U.S. influence

While more than 300 current and former world leaders were at one time international students in the U.S., other nations are making concerted efforts to catch up . If there are fewer students from other countries studying in the U.S., it will lessen the ability of the United States to touch the hearts and minds of future world leaders.

David L. Di Maria is associate vice provost for international education at University of Maryland Baltimore County. This was first published on The Conversation — “6 ways a drop in international students could set back US higher education”.

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