Although fewer and fewer international students are coming to the United States, their numbers continue to increase at Canadian universities.
In the United States, international students pay higher tuition than in-state students and do not receive federal aid. In the 2018-2019 academic year, more than one million international students contributed an estimated $45 billion to the U.S. economy, according to an Open Doors report from the Department of Homeland Security.
The number of international students in the United States decreased by 17.86% in 2020 from 1,251,569 in 2019, according to a report by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The current decline in the number of international students is having economic effects on the United States and on the University of Kansas. In 2014, the University relied heavily on projected international student tuition fees to fund its central district project, according to an article by the University Daily Kansan.
When the number of international students began to decline, the University had to cut spending, use emergency funds and offer buyouts to higher-paying professors, according to the article.
Ira Kirschner, KU’s deputy director for student engagement, said the Trump administration discriminates against international students, especially Muslim and Middle Eastern students, driving them away from the United States.
“There was a lot of negative sentiment coming from the Trump administration, which resulted in declining enrollment for many international students,” Kirschner said.
KU is a known destination for international students, Kirschner said. However, technological developments have had an impact on student choices. With the increase in internet usage, students can find information about smaller and lesser-known universities.
“Other smaller colleges and universities also might have started saying, ‘Hey, here we are, and we’re cheaper, and we want you because we’re really hungry for international students,'” Kirschner said.
Based on application and enrollment numbers, Kirschner said KU expects a higher number of international enrollments next semester, but he did not provide specific data.
Jose Leyba, a Venezuelan computer science student who arrived in the spring, said he faced security issues living in the United States after hearing reports of shootings and discrimination. However, he hadn’t faced any of them himself.
“It’s been an ordeal mentally especially,” Leyba said. “It’s constant pressure.”
Is KU the only university affected in the Midwest?
In addition to KU, Indiana University, University of Missouri, and University of Colorado at Boulder experienced declines in international student numbers before and during the pandemic.
The University of Missouri attributes the drop in international student numbers to the pandemic, the Columbia Missourian reported.
“We continue to work with international students to help them in any way we can,” MU spokesperson Liz McCune told the Columbia Missourian.
President Donald Trump has made it difficult for universities to attract international students, Kathleen Fairfax, vice provost for international affairs at Colorado State University, told 5280.com.
“When Trump became president, there was so much negative rhetoric about whether these students were welcome,” Fairfax said. “Before schools could get this under control, however, the pandemic hit and made everything more complicated.”
Why are more students going to Canada?
In short, more students are going to Canada because of favorable immigration policies.
Stay after graduation
The United States allows F-1 students to stay for one year to participate in optional practical training after graduation, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In contrast, students can work temporarily in Canada for up to two years after graduation or even apply to live permanently in Canada, according to the Canadian government.
Work off campus
According to the Canadian government, full-time international students in Canada can work off-campus after obtaining a social insurance number and do not need a work permit.
International students in the United States can only work off-campus as part of a university-approved internship or under serious circumstances, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
International students can work 20 hours a week on campus when classes are in session and 40 hours during breaks, according to KU International Support Services.
Sergio Andres Solera Valverde, a sophomore at KU Costa Rica studying aerospace engineering, said he arrived on campus in the fall of 2021 after two semesters online due to COVID-related issues. 19.
Solera Valverde tried to get an internship in Curricular Practical Training, a program offered to international students who want to gain work experience in the United States.
However, he was unable to enroll because the US government requires students to spend two semesters at university before they can enroll in CPT, Solera Valverde said. He is looking for a job with the US Department of Defense.
“They’re not impossible, but they’re much harder to get than US citizens,” Solera Valverde said.
Humberto Gomez Salinas, originally from Mexico, came to KU to study economics and history after receiving a scholarship for his freshman year, but did not receive scholarships in subsequent years.
“Any domestic student could get two jobs, three jobs, work 40 hours,” Salinas said. “We are only limited to those 20 hours.”
Canada allows students to extend their visa inside Canada before returning home.
The United States issues different expiry dates for visas, sometimes based on nationality. Some students obtain a visa valid for one year only. After a visa expires, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows F-1 students to remain in the United States if they maintain their student status.
However, students leaving the United States will need new visas, which are sometimes not easy to obtain, especially when the Trump administration has issued multiple travel bans. This makes students reluctant to leave the United States before they graduate.
Some international students in the United States that Salinas knows have not seen their parents in years due to travel bans, Salinas said.
“Fortunately, I’m from Mexico and we have a relatively good relationship with the United States,” Salinas said. “Any country that has a bad relationship with the United States, people are kind of screwed.”
The 2024 election could hugely affect the number of international students, Salinas said.
“I can totally see international students keep saying, ‘Hey, you know what, I don’t think I should go to the States,'” Salinas said.