Donald Trump ran a presidential campaign with unprecedented levels of anti-immigrant and discriminatory rhetoric that has sparked fears inside the US and throughout the world. His election has had immediate ramifications on many domestic and global issues including The Spike Lab’s focus, international education. Many of our students who were only considering US colleges are now hedging their bets by adding colleges outside the US colleges to their college “short lists”. A new question we now receive from our students and prospective students is “should I still go to the US for college now that Trump is president?”
It’s a very understandable concern. On the news and through social media, the international community is hearing about the “Trump Effect,” and an apparent rise in hate crimes across the nation. Furthermore, some of Trump’s cabinet nominations are giving credence to these apprehensions. It makes sense that students are asking themselves “is this really the country we want to go to college in and potentially start my career in afterwards?”
The concerns are definitely warranted and the issue is one that should be discussed, but our answer to these inquiries of trepidation is a definitive “yes!” Despite the results of the election and a more populist government administration, US Colleges are still the best choice for most high-achieving foreign students.
One clear benefit arising from this new situation occasioned by Trump’s election is that it is encouraging international students (and their families) to think a little more deeply about why they prefer US colleges over colleges elsewhere, like the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and mainland China, which are the most popular international destinations outside the United States for our Taiwanese students. When we asked many students and families why they prefer US colleges, most struggled to formulate a strong rationale. US colleges have been the default and not enough deep analysis has been put into this major life decision. These fears are encouraging deeper research and analysis; perhaps that’s why you’re reading this article!
To decide if you’re comfortable going to college in the United States, you need to first think through your original rationale for wanting to study in the US over other countries and then evaluate how much a Trump administration will change your original rationale. To be brief, in our view the change in Administration in Washington, while important, is not going to change the nature of the country or its democratic system of government, its rule of law, and its way of life which has endured for 240 years since independence.
So what makes going to the top colleges in the US a better decision than going to universities elsewhere? Below are a number of factors that we believe at The Spike Lab make the top colleges in the US on average better than colleges elsewhere, but please note that what matters most are the goals and aspiration of the particular student.
Academic Excellence. First and foremost, the top US colleges are some of the best educational institutions in the world. 11 of the 20 best world universities are located on American soil, according to the 2016 Quacquarelli Symonds World University ranking. International students who go to the US are seeking a more participatory and empowering pedagogy that teaches you to be an independent, creative and rigorous thinker. The quality and style of education in the US won’t change under a Trump administration; our colleges and universities are independently run and there have been no challenges by any political party to the concept that educational institutions run their own institutions.
Global Citizenship. Most international students considering going to a US college want it to accelerate their progress towards become a global citizen who can live and work comfortably and successfully all over the world. US colleges help foreign students in three major ways: (1) becoming fluent in English, (2) becoming confident and skilled interacting among many peoples and cultures, and (3) achieving a door-opening world-recognized credential: a diploma from a respected and recognized institutional brand. US institutions are not the only ones to offer this value proposition, but on average US colleges are still the most effective at delivering on this promise of global citizenship because of the undeniable track record of our institutions and the traditions of diversity and globalism.
Despite growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the US and throughout the developed world, the US is still the only massive, pluralistic democracy in the world — a “melting pot” of peoples who have gone to America from throughout the world over generations. These pluralistic values are ingrained deeply in the top US Universities, most of which are very diverse and politically very open and democratic. One administration can not undermine this, and nothing President-elect Trump has said implies he desires to adversely influence the country’s educational institutions. Members of his family and his Cabinet choices all went to outstanding American institutions of higher learning.
Foreigners, even in a Trump America, will be hard-pressed to find a more inclusive and diverse community anywhere in the world. These are truly unique communities that are hand-picked from all geographies, ideologies, races, religions and identities. Trump’s presidency will make immigration a bigger issue on campuses, and it will accentuate the divide in America, increasing tensions between conservatives and liberals on college campuses, but the degree of inclusiveness and diversity at these top US colleges will still be more robust than college communities outside the US.
Successful Careers. US colleges are also more appealing to international students who are seeking break-through professional opportunities. Top US Colleges have strong connections with top employers and a vast network of alumni, making it much easier to get internships and entry-level jobs that put them on the fast-track to successful careers. Also, immigration policy has evolved over the years to make it much easier to enter the US job market after graduating from a US college. For instance, the F1 student Visa that are issued to most international students while at college allows them to stay and work in the US for 12 months after graduation. Thereafter most graduates get an H-1B visa, which also requires visa sponsorship from a US company.
The advantage of the US over other countries is that it is by far the biggest economy in the world and significantly more job, research and graduate school opportunities exist for international students post-graduation. And it is important to note that the American economy is very strong right now — much stronger than nearly any other country in the world — with a robust job market for college graduates. Even for students who want to return home immediately after graduating, the US college degree traditionally has created more job opportunities back home due to (1) the power of the US college brands, (2) the mastery of English and international culture, and (3) the ability to access US markets and do business with foreigners.
Under the Trump administration, there is a risk that immigration policy will change and one result might be that foreign work visas (like H-1Bs) will be harder to get than they are today. This is probably the biggest impact the new administration might have on you. On the other hand, many other countries are even more difficult places to obtain work status, and the Trump’s administration is looking like it might be one of the most business-friendly administrations ever. Therefore, it might be sympathetic to the calls of the business community for the country to be more open to international talent. In fact business leaders are lobbying the Trump administration very hard for more H1-B visas for skilled international workers like you! Therefore it’s very possible that immigration policy will improve for high-skilled foreigners although less likely for unskilled applicants. These are unknowns, but the issue of possible changes in American visa regulations shouldn’t discourage you from coming to the US for your education.
Vibrant college community. US colleges are well known for providing students with a very rich campus life filled with student clubs, student-run media, speaker events, concerts, and athletic teams. The value of a US college degree is much more than a great education and a career boost. If you talk to older college alumni, they will usually say that they valued their college friends and the personal growth and transformation they experienced at college more than anything else. After four years, students come away with a deep sense of school pride that runs so deep that alumni keep coming back for class reunions and donate back for the rest of their life. This is not common among alumni from universities elsewhere. A Trump administration will not change the strength of the US college community and experience.
World-class facilities. US colleges are by far wealthier than colleges elsewhere. According to research done by ‘The Best Schools’, 87 of the top 100 wealthiest colleges in the world are in the US. This has many repercussions but the biggest have to do with students’ access to great research and world-class recreational facilities. It is also the reason for US colleges’ beautiful campuses, vibrant communities and strong professional development & career support offices. Similar research was done identifying the universities with the biggest research budgets and of the top 30 listed, only four were located outside the US. A Trump administration will not change the college endowments and will only minimally impact University research budgets if there are reductions in the size of government spending. Actually the Trump agenda is to increase spending on infrastructure and in the defense sector, which often leads to increased research and development nationwide.
Ok, but will I be safe? In the end of the day, safety trumps the rest of the analysis above. Our answer again to this question is, definitely, yes. Of course, don’t take our word for it. We highly recommend you talking to one of the current 1.04 million international students studying at a US university or college today and hearing their first-hand account. Despite an uptick in hate incidents after the election, these are very rarely happening on college campuses and if so, you can be assured that the perpetrators are being dealt with and punished harshly not just by the college administrators but also by the liberal student who dominant college campuses today, so much so that student supporters of Trump are starting to seek safe spaces for themselves to express their political opinions. In fact, this uptick in “hate incidents” is already starting to subside indicating that it’s a very short-term trend that will disappear just as the rate of hate crimes on US Muslims returned to its ‘normal’ rate a few weeks after September 11th.
In summary, the core supporters of the Trump campaign represent a less tolerant side of America that advocate for more isolationist and anti-immigrant policies. His election has rightfully created hesitation among students thinking about going to American colleges and thereafter perhaps also working in the US. However, the US is still the same country that voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, and its educational institutions remain the most prestigious, diverse and tolerant in the world. American society is still extremely open and diverse, especially in its university and college communities, and we firmly believe US colleges are still the best choice for ambitious and academically excellent students.