A number of top US colleges including MIT and Harvard are readying themselves to file legal action against the Trump government for its decision to bar the entry and the stay of foreign students who entered the United States on a well earned and well deserving F1 student visa. While online petitions have been raised and countries like Germany and Canada have even wooed students away from the US, there has been much debate about the visa restrictions and the impact that it will have on the next generation of professionals and the economy of the US.
A Brief History of Foreign Students in Top US Colleges
The education scene in the US has always enjoyed a vibrant status with a college campus culture like none other. This is especially true for a number of courses and niche including tech, b schools and even music schools as well as art schools. In fact, it was on the exalted Harvard Campus that Facebook was brought into reality by Mark Zuckerberg and the partners whom he found and befriended while on the campus.
Tech students and tech professionals make up a large chunk of the foreign population in the US. The US has the famed silicon valley in the world, for which it needs the most brilliant tech minds and the B school honed minds from all over the world. This makes up billions of dollars in revenue. Apart from this, tech students from the rest of the world, especially Asian students, contribute billions of dollars when they sign up for courses and apply for student visas as well. And about 8% of the tech professional force is supplied by a single country like India along – think about the contribution from other countries like Pakistan, China and many others!
Yet, sadly for the US, times are a changing. Not only are students now turning to countries like Ireland where the incubation of ideas and the vibrant culture remain more conducive for new ideas, but ease of entry and visa processing has made students consider others areas like Canada. Further, most countries like Australia, UK and NZ along with France and Germany have made it much easier for a student to remain in the country after his or her studies are over, with an application for a work visa. The job opportunities after the college degree are far better and greater in the countries, hence students who want to study abroad are now gravitating towards these countries. This is not only true for tech students in top US colleges, but also for medical students who go on to contribute to the medical industry in the US.
The suspension of the H1B visa and newly acquired green cards has also made many foreign students rethink their path and change their route to stay away from the US. Many of them think that after investing their time, money and energy to get a degree in the US, they would not be able to remain in the US and hence they are considering other countries. Not only is the professional quality set to decline, but the campus quality is set to take a hit as well.
What’s Happening at the Top US Colleges?
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University are both very well known, old and prestigious institutions that have turned out some of the sharpest minds in a number of niches from politics, to business, and most notably, tech. Both of them qualify as Ivy League universities in the US or the top US colleges, and it is very difficult to get into these universities. Most of the prestige attached to these colleges comes from the fact that they have built a strong college campus culture that fosters vibrant cultural expression and talent from all across the world.
So it should come as a no surprise that when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement body, on behalf of the Trump government, announced that there would be a widespread suspension of student visas, otherwise known as F1 visas, there was an uproar from many colleges and notably these two colleges. MIT in particular, has been known to bring in students from all over the world to create a research based learning system that is unparalleled in the world of technology, and anywhere else in the world. To restrict the stay and entry of these masterminds and brains that the college picks with great care would mean to restrict the quality of education, learning, research and innovation that bounces off of the walls of this college. These shock waves are being similarly felt across most ivy League universities in the US.
As an example, we may also see that the JEE exam application numbers back home in India have increased on account of the fact that the COVID 19 situation and the clamp down of the Trump government on all kinds of visas and green cards has created an air of uncertainty. Therefore, the JEE portal was also reopened to accommodate all these applications and students who now want to study and remain in India, which will of course, also contribute to the positive future of India’s tech scene.
Examples such as these have forced many leaders and stakeholders from Harvard and MIT to declare the policy as an appalling one that has to be contested. Hence a lawsuit has been filed against the Trump government, beseeching the President of the United States to revoke the order immediately. On humanitarian grounds as well, this policy has been seen as an act nothing short of cruelty since it will force students to go back to their country without even finishing their courses or without the opportunity to pursue a career in the US – which is something that they have earned.
Students and professors from the top US colleges believe that such movement would also increase the risk of these students catching the Corona Virus due to the untimely travel. At the same time, the move is being seen as one that can potentially disrupt the state and quality of higher education in the US.