Despite Pandemic, International Student Enrollment Endures

via Joe Guzzardi

Amidst COVID-19 chaos and confusion, the new academic year has started. At some institutions, weekly COVID-19 testing for students, including those who are fully vaccinated, and mask requirements, regardless of vaccination status, are required indoors and outdoors. Faculty and staff members are subject to the same rigorous requirements.

To help end COVID’s spread, a few universities have implemented rigid protocols. The University of Virginia and Xavier University of Louisiana disenrolled students who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine prior to the fall semester. Duke University, specifically, stated they will fire unvaccinated faculty, the most extreme punishment that could set a new standard at other universities.

Since concerns about COVID-19 and its Delta variant are so widespread among campuses, the CDC and the Biden administration, issuing F-1 student visas to prospective enrollees from overseas nations struggling with the pandemic too is at odds with the cautionary advice that the establishment endlessly harps on. Nevertheless, more than 55,000 Indian students and exchange visitors will study in the U.S. this year, “an all-time record,” that exceeded pre-pandemic levels, the U.S. embassy boasted. Many more are expected to arrive as the year progresses.

The State Department’s approval of record numbers of Indian student visas is more incomprehensible in light of India’s battle to contain COVID-19. India, with its 1.4 billion population, has recorded more than 33 million COVID-19 cases, and rising, that have led to 442,000 deaths. Secretary of State Tony Blinken has rejected his own pandemic solutions. In his February remarks to the UN Security Council, Blinken urged global-wide participation in a transparent, robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies, an impossibility for the U.S. if it persists in issuing temporary visas to foreign nationals.

The U.S. is poorly served when it continues to admit thousands from nations still coping with their own COVID-19 crises. India and China are the two largest student-sending nations. Open Doors, which conducts an annual census of international student enrollment in U.S. universities and colleges, reported that for the 2019/2020 academic year, the aggregate total hit 1.075 million arrivals.

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Beyond the risky admission of hundreds of thousands of international students that may transmit the virus on the campuses and in the communities where they will reside is the other glaring negative. Republican and Democratic administrations have punished qualified U.S. high school graduates by allowing international students to occupy a fixed number of coveted, but limited, freshman classroom seats.

A partial explanation is that consecutive White Houses, beginning with President Carter up to and including President Biden, have been captured in globalism’s unrelenting grip. The local high school graduate may be a good student with impressive credentials, but the international student is the preferred candidate simply because he satisfies the White House’s globalism-at-all-costs goal.

The remaining, more specific clarification is that colleges and universities obscenely enrich themselves when they accept international students who pay significantly higher enrollment fees. At the University of Wisconsin, for example, instate students pay $10,800 per academic year versus $39,000 for an international student. At Wisconsin, the difference between out-of-state and instate tuition varies by a factor of nearly four, a typical nationwide discrepancy. A 2015 analysis found that the country’s public universities raked in more than $9 billion in foreign student tuition and fees which explains their determination to enroll as many international students as possible.

The quid pro quo for the foreign-born student is that exorbitantly high tuition fees may buy him not only a U.S. college degree, but also a white-collar job and, if he secures a sponsor, eventual permanent residency. Today marks a stark contrast to the original intent of the F-1 visa which didn’t include employment authorization, and required students to return home shortly after completing their coursework. Now, however, international graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can, through nonstatutory extensions that total 42 months, remain on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT) and get a tech worker job that otherwise might have gone to a worthy American.

Harvard Kennedy school labor economist George Borjas studied the long-term effects of admitting 1 million to-be international college graduates annually, and estimated that after a decade and a half, native-born college grads’ wages would drop by 15 percent. Furthermore, the reduced return on investment of the college education would, over time, translate into a 15 to 30 percent drop in native college enrollment. Wealthy overseas parents could afford to fund their children’s U.S. college education, but for native-born, the lofty tuition would be out of reach.

The winners in International enrollment are the international students, the universities, employers who profit from the cheaper labor that OPT workers provide and the elitists like immigration lawyers who promote but don’t suffer from endless immigration’s adverse consequences. The losers: high school students who, because of 1 million high-paying international students, are unfairly shut out from a college education opportunity; U.S. workers, especially minorities, displaced from their jobs in an over-immigration loosened labor market, and sovereign America.


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