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There was a 17% drop in international students in the U.S. last year, mostly due to the 28% decline in Indian students and a 24% decline in Chinese students receiving visas.

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Department of State; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: The trend is at least partially attributed to President Trump's immigration policy changes and rhetoric, which have led to fewer foreign students applying to study at U.S. institutions. Foreign students contributed $36.9 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2016-2017 academic year, according to the NAFSA Association of International Educators.

"Many people attribute this decline to perceptions (and the realities) created by changes in US immigration policies as well as the rhetoric around immigration and some acts of violence targeting foreigners that were widely reported on around the world during the past year and a half."
— Jeff Lande of the Lande Group, which represents India-based IT companies

But other factors came before Trump:

  • Chinese students were given an extension for their F-1 student visas, making them valid for five years instead of one. This was announced at the end of 2014, which correlates with the beginning of the decline in Chinese student visas, according to the data. China has received the most student visas from the U.S. over the past several years.

Yes, but: China aside, there was still an overall 13% decrease in F-1 visas.

  • STEM students: President Barack Obama also extended the amount of time foreign STEM students could remain in the U.S. to work through the OPT program.
  • Competition: Other counties like China, Canada, New Zealand and France have begun actively recruiting foreign students, Rachel Banks, Director of Public Policy at NAFSA, told Axios. “These efforts show that the United States is not the only contender for the highest-quality education anymore, and as we’ve seen this year, students will choose other countries.”

What to watch: The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have reported that the White House is considering limiting China's access to high-level research in the U.S. out of fear of espionage. The details are not known, but could impact the F-1 student visa.

Go deeper

5 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
7 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

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