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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

California wildfire explodes in size, destroys historic town

Battalion Chief Sergio Mora looks on as the Dixie fire burns through downtown Greenville, Calif. on Aug. 4, 2021. Photo: Josh EdelsonAFP via Getty Images

The small Sierra town of Greenville, California, was heavily damaged on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.

The latest: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, continued to threaten communities in Plumas County into Thursday night, as more mandatory evacuation orders were issued in the region.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top labor leader Richard Trumka dies unexpectedly at 72

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who led the largest federation of unions in the country for over a decade, has died at 72.

The big picture: Trumka began working as a coal miner in 1968 and would go on to dedicate his life to the labor movement, including as president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO beginning in 2009.

Biden signs bill awarding Congressional Gold Medals to officers who responded to Jan. 6 attack

President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, lawmakers and members of law enforcement and their families, signs legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to law enforcement in the Rose Garden. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Biden signed legislation awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress' "highest expression of national appreciation," notes the New York Times.

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