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Best and Brightest? The Impact of Student Visa Restrictions

Recent immigration policy changes to student visas, have left American universities wondering as to what impact this will have on the make-up of their international student body. In a new paper, Mingyu Chen of Princeton University, Jessica Howell of The College Board, and Jonathan Smith of Georgia State University examine how recent and anticipated immigration policies influence US undergraduate enrollment outcomes of international students.

The researchers matched data on the universe of SAT takers between 2004 and 2015 with college enrollment records. The researchers found that a higher anticipated F-1 student visa refusal rate decreases the number of international SAT takers, decreases the probability of sending SAT scores to US colleges, and decreases international student enrollment in the US. The decreases are larger among international students with higher academic achievement.

This study highlights worrying trends about the possible negative impact of student visa restrictions on American higher education. The U.S.’s historical ranking as the most popular destination for international students might be changing. Advocates of immigration and international education stress the value of international students, such as intellectual excellence and support for the skilled labor force.

By Robert Nishimwe

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action