Schooled Reporting on education

An international void on U.S. campuses

Education | New visa rules restrict faculty and students from overseas
by Seth Johnson
Posted 7/01/20, 06:36 pm

Since the 2015-2016 school year, new enrollment of international students at U.S. universities has dropped 10.4 percent, according to the National Immigration Forum. This dip places the United States behind Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom in the growth rate of international students.

On June 22, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that could contribute to a further decline in international enrollment. The order placed restrictions on the number of visas many colleges use to recruit students and hire international talent, and it could put a more immediate strain on the U.S. economy than expected.

With more than 1 million foreign students studying in the United States, education is one of the country’s top exports. International students added nearly $41 billion to the economy during the 2018-2019 academic year, according to a study by NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Trump’s order stops the issuance of new H-1B visas for skilled workers, including post-doctoral scholars and faculty. International students, professors, and research scholars can get J visas for “cultural exchange,” but only if they do not plan to work as interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, or in other job trade programs.

The limits expire at the end of this year, but the president can extend or edit them at any time. Colleges will have to suspend hiring plans for certain skilled workers for the fall if those workers don’t already have a visa.

Trump’s executive order leaves undergraduate students free to attend in the fall, but the coronavirus presents challenges to those traveling internationally. A study of 599 institutions—accounting for 47 percent of America’s international students—found that 88 percent of the study’s respondents expected a decline in international enrollment for the upcoming academic year, and 30 percent anticipated a substantial decrease, according to the International Institute of Education.

The executive order “fails to understand that many nonimmigrant workers, especially high-skilled foreign workers, help grow the economy,” Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration practice at Cornell University, told Inside Higher Ed. Foreign students who studied in the United States started half of all private U.S. companies worth more than $1 billion, education expert Ryan Craig wrote in Forbes.

The Trump administration said the pause on visas will give Americans access to more than half a million jobs during an economically tough time. More than 20 million Americans were unemployed in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The May unemployment rate for young Americans, who compete with certain J nonimmigrant visa applicants, has been particularly high,” Trump stated in his executive order. “The entry of additional workers through the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa programs, therefore, presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci (file) Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci (file) Betsy DeVos

Relief funds compromise, sort of

The U.S. Department of Education issued a final rule on Thursday regarding hotly contested guidance for how states should divvy up more than $13 billion in relief funding for K–12 schools.

The coronavirus stimulus package Congress passed in March instructed states to apportion the funds for its public and private schools “in the same manner as” federal Title I dollars for low-income students. Local districts regularly split those funds with private schools within their boundaries using a standard mathematic formula based on the number of qualifying students in both types of schools.

But in April, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos directed states to use a different formula for coronavirus funds that counted all private school students but only Title I public school students. Many states complained the change would skew aid in favor of private schools. In Louisiana, for example, the new formula would give private schools in Orleans Parish 77 percent of the city’s funding allotment.

Last week’s rule allows public school districts to use the standard formula as long as they direct their share of the funds to only buildings that have about 35 percent or more low-income students. That leaves out many schools and districts.

State and local education officials, as well as Congress, expressed dissatisfaction with the final rule. House Education Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., argued that DeVos did not follow the law as it was enacted.

“The department should be providing clear leadership and guidance to help students, parents, and school districts cope with the impact of the pandemic,” he said. “Instead, it has issued another confusing directive that will undermine efforts to maintain access to education.”

The rule is effective immediately, but the Education Department will open it up for 30 days of public feedback. A legal challenge could develop, or DeVos could rescind the rule. But school officials likely can’t wait much longer to distribute the funds. —Laura Edghill

Associated Press/Photo by Gerald Herbert (file) Associated Press/Photo by Gerald Herbert (file) A school resource officer at an elementary school in New Orleans

Police will stay in Chicago schools

The Chicago Board of Education voted 4-3 on June 24 to keep its $33 million contract with the city’s police department, leaving more than 200 resource officers in the district’s 73 high schools.

On the day of the vote, protesters gathered outside the home of Board of Education President Miguel del Valle, who had expressed support for the contract due to gang activity. Minority students said the presence of police in their schools put them at higher risk than their white peers.

School districts in Denver; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; and Oakland, Calif., all voted in recent weeks to sever ties with local police departments. Other districts across the country have considered similar actions. —L.E.

Snack-sized learning

The social media platform TikTok is making a move on the online education market. The Chinese tech giant announced plans to invest $14 million in its new #LearnOnTikTok platform. The company is commissioning content from hundreds of leading experts and institutions. The videos will follow TikTok’s hallmark format: short, snappy, and engaging. The company hopes to translate the brand’s reputation for “snack-sized entertainment” into a bustling business of “microlearning.” —L.E.

Seth Johnson

Seth is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute student course.

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