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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

CPAC Republicans choose conservatism over constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CPAC proved such a draw, conservative Republicans chose the conference over their constituents.

Why it matters: More than a dozen House Republicans voted by proxy on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in Washington so they could speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz skipped an Air Force One flight as President Biden flew to Cruz's hometown of Houston to survey storm damage.

Border Democrat warns Biden about immigrant fallout

Henry Cuellar (right). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

A Democratic lawmaker representing a border district warned the Biden administration against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants, citing their impact on his constituents, local hospitals and their potential to spread the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios he supports President Biden. But the moderate said he sees the downsides of efforts to placate pro-immigrant groups, an effort that threatens to blow up on the administration.

In CPAC speech, Trump says he won't start a 3rd party

Trump at CPAC on Feb. 28 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Courtesy of C-SPAN.

In his first public speech since leaving office, former President Trump told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he would not start a third party because "we have the Republican party."

Why it matters: The former president aims to cement himself as Republicans' "presumptive 2024 nominee" as his top contenders — including former members of his administration — face the challenge of running against the GOP's most popular politician.

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