President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week that could increase federal oversight of the H-1B visa program for highly skilled workers, potentially making it difficult for colleges to attract international students if working in the U.S. becomes more difficult after graduation, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Educators worry the new policies may be seen as an indication that the U.S. is increasingly unwelcome to foreign students and workers, and it remains unknown if consideration would be granted by the Trump administration to foreign students graduating from American educational institutions when granting H-1B visas.
- Trump said companies frequently abuse the H-1B program, offering jobs to foreign employees at lower wages in lieu of hiring American workers, and he argued that the program should be limited to “only the most highly-skilled and qualified applicants,” though it was unclear who would meet that criteria.
There are reports that many universities are reporting a decrease in interest from international applicants, which could be attributed to Trump’s rhetoric and proposed policies. International students are attracted to learn here in part by the prospect of working in the U.S. after graduation, so these policies could lead to diminished enrollment and ultimately cut into institutions' bottom lines from lost tuition. Interest in the H-1B program remains high, as visa applications reached their annual cap within five business days, though this interest could stem from people striving to secure a visa before policy shifts are introduced.
The loss of the H-1B program could also have an impact on the country’s economy, as employers may be unable to fill coveted positions with applicants who possess the right work history and education. For example, a 2013 report found that the U.S. would likely create 120,000 jobs requiring a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science each year, but only 51,000 computer science degrees were being produced annually. Companies often consider H-1B as one option to help fill gaps like these, but the loss of students could turn into the loss of that primed international workforce. Students who are disinclined to attend school in the U.S. may be less likely to apply for work here afterwards, no matter how “qualified” they may be.