Why sending foreign students home hurts the US

The Trump administration has put forward a new executive order. The upshot is that foreign students at US colleges and universities, who as a result of the COVID19 pandemic, can’t take classes in person in the Fall, will loose their visa status.

This hurts the US in so many ways. First, those students are paying tuition. The loss of those dollars will be damaging to colleges exactly at they are suffering from massive financial losses from COVID19 related budget cuts. When our academic institutions are damaged, then the US itself is damaged because those institutions are the lifeblood of our innovation ecosystem–Silicon Valley’s proximity to Stanford is not accidental.

Second, those students, in the normal course of events, would return home with a likely positive view of the US: our academic institutions are still ranked top in the world. That won’t be the case if they are deported. So the US will loose one of its key sources of soft-power: foreign alumni of US universities. As importantly, we will loose the collective brain power of those students! Most folks don’t realize that its students (graduate and undergraduate) who conduct most of the research in this country. And it’s the creative collaboration between those students and their professors that is our country’s “secret sauce”. That’s why US science has historically been so good.

Finally, we loose some of the diversity that gives strength to higher education. Our graduates will still need to compete globally. An education in isolation, is an impoverished one.