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Saturday, October 16, 2021

A warm welcome

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced a discouraging proposal to increase student visa fees for international applicants aspiring to attend colleges and universities in the United States. However, such a plan would serve as another obstacle for foreign students in acquiring world-class higher education, as well as a setback in recruiting brilliant minds to American institutions.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, in which two of the perpetrators entered the U.S. as students, American policy toward granting student clearances has been very restricted, which resulted in a very minimal admission rate of international applicants. Now that student visa regulations are less strict and less stringent, applications have started to skyrocket again, which the DHS viewed as the perfect moment to raise fees. The DHS justified the proposed increase from $100 to $200 on the argument to further intensify the protection of national security against terrorist threats by expanding the database of foreign students in the country.

But with all due respect, there was hardly any evidence that would show that these foreign students, who make up only 3percent of the total non-immigrant admissions in the U.S., are destabilizing our national security. Their extraordinary efforts in undergoing rigorous and costly processes, and fulfilling all the essential requirements for the opportunity to be educated in America,would suffice to say that they are worthy of our welcome as a country that has always embraced intellectualism.

As worldwide educational quality and standards have improved significantly, there is a monolithic challenge for American institutions of higher education to attract talented international students to come to our shores. In order to be competitive in the arena of global learning, a university also needs competitive students and other countries are viable sources of these exceptional students. However, slapping students with higher visa application fees does not point us in such a direction, but instead dissuades them from pursuing their academic dreams in America. Although $100 may not seem like that much for us, the DHS must realize that more than 50 percent of the total applicants are from third world countries. Since lesser-developed nations have weaker currencies, every dollar increase would translate to an enormous amount of money for these students.

Furthermore, we will not only deter gifted minds but also lose them as valuable resources of revenue, especially for financially-challenged public universities such as the University of California. Although American universities are the most expensive in the world, thousands of international students still choose to attend college here because of the top-notch quality education being offered. But if we impose another hindrance on top of the already complex and strenuous visa procurement process, it would not be a surprise if they consider the more affordable but promising universities in Europe where student visa applications are less limiting than in the U.S.

The fortification of America’s security and guarding people’s safety are undeniably paramount issues. However, snooping on peaceful foreign students whose sole intent is to be educated only creates a hostile image for America. Inflicting another monetary constraint on international students so that they can be tracked and monitored efficiently would certainly send an inimical and aghast message to them that foreigners in America are regarded with apprehensive and distrustful attitudes. As a consequence, many students would not even consider studying in our country.

In this time of an increasingly global economy, what America needs are intellectuals from other countries who could be recruited later on as propitious immigrants and productive workers. The best way to attain such objectives is to motivate potential international students by making the route to American education more accessible to them. By implementing a more welcoming policy toward foreign students, we will not only attract valuable assets but will also advance dialogue and understanding across barriers.

 

REAGAN F. PARLAN will be extremely delighted to hear your constructive comments, sensible suggestions and even violent reactions at rfparlan@ucdavis.edu.

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