El Mensajero (English)

Posted: May 16, 2017

Travel ban could affect college admissions

By Annette Jiménez/EMC

President Donald Trump’s travel ban and stricter immigration policies could negatively affect college admissions and the ability to attract faculty in years to come, local college officials said.

Colleges are anxiously waiting to see how courts will rule on the president’s executive order to suspend the U.S. refugee program and block visas for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, according to representatives of several local colleges. Two federal judges issued stays on the executive orders -- the original policy issued in January and a revision in March -- and two U.S. Courts of Appeal were to rule this month on the legality of the travel ban. Countries identified in the original ban were Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, with Iraq not included in the revised order.

"We could imagine an impact on our ability to attract international students and our ability to attract and hire (international) faculty," noted Paul Schacht, interim provost for SUNY Geneseo. "What we need to worry about is a general sense among students, even outside the countries being affected by the travel ban, that their visas might be denied, which would discourage them from applying. We wouldn’t even know that they were thinking about (applying), and we wouldn’t know what students we are losing."

The potential for negative impact on admissions is a national concern, as colleges have increasingly relied on enrolling international students who are able to pay full tuition, according to information from Inside Higher Ed (http://bit.ly/2nlehrM). Nearly 40 percent of the 250 U.S. colleges surveyed in February by higher-education organizations have seen a decline in applications from international students for the fall 2017 semester, according to the Inside Higher Ed article. Another 35 percent reported an increase, and 27 percent reported no change.

"Like many colleges and universities and many people generally, we’re watching and waiting to see what will happen in the courts," with the travel ban, Schacht added. "If the ban is upheld … we may find ourselves needing to be concerned (with faculty and student recruitment) down the road."

At SUNY Geneseo, students from more than two dozen countries were enrolled in 2015, Schacht said. About 5 percent of Nazareth College’s current student population is from other nations, said Nevan Fisher, associate vice president for global programs and executive director of the Center for International Education. International students represent about 17 percent of the undergraduate student body at the University of Rochester, according to information at collegedata.com.

Representatives of local schools said they have not yet seen any ripple effects of the travel ban on international student admissions for the upcoming fall semester.

"But (the ban) is something we want to keep a close eye on … and we are monitoring very closely," Jane Gatewood, associate provost for global engagement at the University of Rochester.

When news of the original travel ban broke in January, she said the university’s first concern was for approximately 70 current UR students from the seven countries covered by the ban.

"The way it was brought forward quickly … was alarming to a lot of people in the campus community," Gatewood said. "We saw a lot of collateral fear and concern from those students and staff and faculty (from the countries listed in the initial travel ban). … We had people who have permanent legal status in this country who were concerned. And that is telling."

Fisher said none of Nazareth’s 162 international students were carrying visas from the countries listed in the initial travel ban. But some Nazareth students were born in those countries and either have permanent residency or have become American citizens, he said.

"I was concerned about would they still feel welcome in (the United States), would they have relatives they were concerned about," Fisher said.

In the wake of the initial travel ban, Nazareth and the University of Rochester were among local colleges that held campuswide meetings to provide students resources on how they could become involved in refugee and immigration issues, and to give them a chance to express concerns.

"We have to be neutral" about the politics of the travel ban, Fisher noted. "But our job is to educate."

Students and faculty also have expressed concerns that the president’s policy represents a sense of isolationism, Fisher said. So, universities must continue to serve as ambassadors in welcoming international students as well as sending American students into the world to be "agents of change," he added.

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