January 31, 2019

Tony Baker

Business Forward Report on Higher Education Cites Negative Impact of Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Washington, DC – Business Forward Foundation released an updated report, The “Trump Slump” in Higher Ed,  that demonstrates how the Trump administration’s cuts to work visa programs and negative rhetoric about immigrants, Muslims, and Mexicans are discouraging international students from enrolling in American universities. This enrollment decline threatens American jobs, hurts our economy, and strains college budgets.

The 1 million foreign students attending American universities contribute more than $42 billion to the American economy each year. Foreign student spending supports about 455,000 U.S. jobs, making higher education America’s sixth biggest service export.

“Universities are critical to American innovation and economic growth,” said Business Forward President Jim Doyle. “President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and his restrictive visa policies damage our ability to attract the world’s best talent, educate them, hire them, help them start new businesses, and create new jobs here in the U.S.”

The report’s key findings include:
• The number of American college students is shrinking, leaving universities with seats to fill. Enrollment dropped by 354,000 in the 2017-2018 school year alone. If colleges can’t fill those empty seats, they will have to cut back. In December 2017, Moody’s downgraded higher education from “stable” to “negative,” based, in part, on declining foreign student enrollment.
• Foreign student enrollment is down. New foreign student enrollment dropped seven percent in the 2017-2018 school year, causing schools to raise tuition and cut programs.
• Declining foreign student enrollment threatens American competitiveness in STEM programs. U.S. computer science programs grew by 350 percent from 1995 to 2015 driven by foreign student enrollment. Without foreign students, we cannot meet American companies’ demand for STEM talent.
• Foreign student drop-off is hurting schools in “Trump country” most. Public universities in Midwestern states, including Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, are particularly dependent on foreign students (who pay two to three times more than in-state students). With fewer international students enrolling, colleges are eliminating classes, extracurricular programs, and sports teams, and many are raising fees for American students.
• While the size of the higher education industry has grown, the U.S.’s share has shrunk. As the U.S. discourages foreign students, the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia are making it easier for them to study there – and stay in the country after they graduate. This makes the U.S. less competitive as promising foreign students opt to take their talents and their ideas to friendlier countries.


With the help of more than 60 of America’s most respected companies, Business Forward is making it easier for more than 100,000 business leaders from across America to advise Washington on how to create jobs and accelerate our economy. Business Forward is active in over 125 cities and works with more than 600 mayors, governors, members of Congress, and senior Administration officials.