Last Monday, APLU and 11 other higher education associations sent a letter U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly expressing serious concerns about changes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, according to the Washington Post’s reporting on July 10.
The Post reported that DHS is considering changes to the program that would specifically target foreign students and scholars. Among the troublesome policies under deliberation is a proposal to require students and scholars to reapply annually for permission to continue their program of study or research.
The letter notes that foreign students and exchange visitors are the most closely monitored travelers in the United States. “The proposed changes under DHS consideration,” the letter continues, “are problematic and do not consider that students and exchange visitors often enroll in U.S. institutions to complete multi-year programs. If an applicant can only be guaranteed duration of status for one year at a time, this will greatly hamper their ability to complete their course of study or transfer programs. When faced with up to a 400 percent increase in fees, redundant forms, and restrictive validity periods, an applicant will likely opt to pursue their studies elsewhere.”
The Washington Post subsequently reported on the higher education associations’ letter and sought comment from DHS on that letter. “We are widely regarded as the world’s outstanding higher education system,” APLU President Peter McPherson, said in an interview with the Post, “but there are real options. There is, in fact, a competition in the world for the extraordinary intellectual capital that countries need and want.” If students don’t know whether they can remain in the country for the duration of an academic program, he said, and face far more paperwork, fees, and uncertainty, they may well choose an alternative.
“We need these brilliant foreign students to come here and study,” he said. “Many make lasting and important contributions to our society. This would really shortchange our country.”