On Monday, President Martha E. Pollack penned an Op-Ed for CNN about the state of higher education, arguing that the sinking number of international students at American institutions of higher learning — spurred by an increasingly hostile federal government — is a major loss for the United States.
“On America’s campuses, a tightening net of government regulations is increasingly excluding some of the young minds our country needs most — a trend that endangers our ability as a nation to innovate and compete,” Pollack said.
In June 2018, Pollack made a statement announcing the amicus brief drafted by 33 institutions of higher learning, including Cornell, which argued that “travel ban harms American higher education.” In the statement, Pollack said she would do everything she can to support the “global community” at Cornell.
In 2017, international students made up 22.04 percent of Cornell’s total enrollment, according to the International Students and Scholars Office, an increase of six percentage points from 2008, when international students represented 16.57 percent of the total enrollment.
In an interview with The Sun in May, Jason C. Locke, Cornell’s interim vice provost for enrollment, said the university “continues to be concerned” that increasing regulations might dissuade international students from applying to and enrolling at Cornell.
As of fall 2017, new enrollments of international students across institutions of higher education in the U.S. declined by 6.6 percent, the highest amount in the last decade, according to statistics from the Institute for International Education, which Pollack cited.
This decrease in international students is occurring as other countries are experiencing an increase in enrollment of international students. For example, Pollack references India and China as examples of nations enrolling growing numbers of international students.
The shrinking international student population is caused by growing restrictions on immigration instituted within the past few years, according to Pollack. These include increased difficulties in obtaining visas and tightened provisions within the “unlawful presence” policy.
“The Trump administration has either suggested, or placed on its regulatory agenda, a host of new proposals making existing visa procedures even more onerous,” Pollack wrote. “[The restrictions] include reducing the length of visas, requiring students to reapply annually or limiting every student’s stay in the United States.”
According to Pollack, these new regulations presents a real danger to the future of these universities as they lose the talent and research potential of would-be students. She mentioned Cornell alumni Sanjay Ghemawat ’87, from India, an instrumental leader in the creation of Google and Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck MBA ’15, from Mexico, who created a company that helps farmers.
“When we discourage or turn away international students, we lose much more than the students themselves,” Pollack said.
“We lose their inventions and innovation, their collaborative input and their contributions to our communities,” Pollack continued. “Ultimately, we will lose not just our status as a global leader, but the very identity that earned it.”
She concluded by saying that although the country “cannot stand open to every person,” it should still remain wide open.
“But we must find a way to keep them open to ‘any person’ — open not just a begrudging crack but wide in welcome,” Pollack said.