The No. 1 victim of the travel ban? America’s schools.
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Last weekend saw a federal judge issue a temporary hold against a White House-issued travel ban. That ban — or “pause,” if you prefer — restricts entry for nationals from certain countries from entering the United States, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Despite the ruling, those already in the country, foreign students in particular, have been advised not to leave, given the prospect of being unable to return.

Although the ban fulfills Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE’s campaign promise of ramping up border security, it has drawn a chorus of condemnation. Tech giants worry about being able to recruit overseas talent, travel advocates worry about a decline in international tourism, and Wall Street frets over the uncertainty of it all.

But it’s America’s youth that may end up paying the highest price.

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Over a million foreigners study at the nation’s colleges and universities. Between 2008 and 2012 alone, this group spent some $34.6 billion nationally. A full $12.8 billion was spent on incidentals alone, like rent, food and transportation.

 

More relevant, however, is how the remaining $21.8 billion was spent. You guessed it: tuition. Foreigners are ineligible for U.S. financial aid, which means they must pay their way in full to get those coveted American degrees.

For those attending the University of California at Berkeley, this means forking out $40,000 annually. Californians by comparison, pay $13,500. Both groups attend the same classes in the same classrooms. So why the price difference? The answer is subsidies.

Public universities receive government handouts that pare down tuition costs for residents. But recent budget cuts have made these financial goodies harder to provide. State support in particular, on a per-student basis, has dropped by 28 percent compared to a decade ago.

And it’s beginning to show.

Colleges in Illinois, for example, recently issued furlough notices to cope with the state’s budget crisis. A number of part-time faculty were cut at schools in Missouri. And University of California officials are grappling with the prospect of reducing student enrollment. The state’s Berkeley campus is expected to rack up losses of $150 million this year.

Simply put, to continue educating our own, the nation’s schools need cash — and foreign students have it.

A report by the Brookings Institution finds that the majority of foreign students pursue degrees in engineering, science, technology and management. Their choice matters. According to a recent survey, graduates in these fields are the most sought-after, commanding higher wages on average compared to other disciplines like education and the arts. For foreign graduates who remain in the country — and some 45 percent of them do — higher wages mean higher taxes: taxes that can be used to further drive down education costs for Americans.

State Department figures suggest that the ban currently affects a few thousand foreign students. Those are admittedly small numbers. But reinstating the ban, which the current administration is looking to do, risks making America a less attractive destination for higher education. Why invest your money pursuing a degree you may not be allowed to finish?

Ensuring security for Americans is important, but so is giving them the best education money can buy. Foreign students can help do just that.

 

Ashley Nunes, Ph.D., studies workforce productivity, regulatory policy, and behavioral economics. He has previously written for Forbes, NPR and Scientific American, among others and his work has been featured by CNN Time, ABC News, and The Globe and Mail.


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