Northwestern international student population continues to rise


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Northwestern’s International Office, 630 Dartmouth Pl.

Alan Perez, Summer Copy Chief

Northwestern’s international student population continues to rise, despite fears by higher education officials that immigration rhetoric could drive away foreign interest and access to American schools.

But any applause may be premature, as growth in the percentage of international students has come to a sluggish slowdown.

The most recent data, published by the International Office, show that the chunk of international students rose just under one percentage point during the past two academic years.That figure had been rising about three percent in the years leading up to the slump, from 2012 to 2015.

Some might point to the hostile rhetoric of then-candidate Donald Trump as cause for the deceleration. That might have caused an initial shock in 2016, but the 2017 data show the rate beginning to pick back up.

Still, the Trump administration has posed additional barriers for foreigners hoping to study in the United States. In June, the State Department implemented stronger visa restrictions for Chinese graduate students studying some technology and science fields. The University draws most of its international students from China.

Another measure heightened student visa restrictions by cracking down on overstays. The move changed the requirements for unlawful presence accrual, making it easier to find an individual in violation of visa and impose a ban from the U.S.

The Supreme Court has also weighed in on student visas, upholding in June Trump’s third revision of the travel ban. The ruling threatens the already-declining number of student visas issued by the government.

Ravi Shankar is the director of the International Office, whose job is to advise and support international students. He told The Daily in May that the office has been reviewing the new policies and offering new guidance to students.

“We need to make sure that we support and take care of our students, but at the same time being mindful of the fact that this has some potential impact on our research and teaching mission,” he said.

Students from abroad wanting to study in an American school must go through an extensive visa process, which includes an interview with a government official and background check — on top of Northwestern’s own admission process.

Those who want to stay in the country after graduation often face tougher obstacles when they apply for a work visa. In recent years, the acceptance rate for work visas like H-1B have dramatically declined, increasing the competition and uncertainty around the program.

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