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There has been speculation of the effects of a Joe Biden presidency on the US college admissions landscape since before the newly-inaugurated chief executive was even elected. Especially for international students with hopes of pursuing higher education in the US, the previous administration did not foster a particularly welcoming environment — but with a new President in office, many are optimistic about the potential changes to come.
Between the handling of COVID-19, policies surrounding visas and the state of international relations, there are several possible reasons why the Trump presidency may have deterred international students from applying to study in the US. Fortunately, despite only being in his second week in office, President Biden is already making strides to improve all of these circumstances.
For almost a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has been ravaging normal life in the US with disjointed and ineffective measures being put in place in varying degrees from one state to the next. This uncoordinated approach to containing the virus has resulted in repeated surges in cases across the country, understandably keeping some international students and travellers at bay. According to a survey of more than 700 colleges, international student enrollment dropped by 43% in 2020 — which comes as no surprise given many colleges have switched to remote learning and socially-distanced living for the few students they’ve welcomed to campus.
However, among the first directives to come from President Biden upon his swearing in was a $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan which includes $35 billion in dedicated funding to colleges. Beyond college campuses, President Biden’s plan would allocate $50 billion to COVID testing and $20 billion to a national vaccine program in an effort to move closer to herd immunity in the US. Although the plan has not yet passed, it’s a clear indication of Biden’s commitment to getting the virus under control and making the US a safer place.
Most international students need a visa to study in the US. Last year, the Trump administration proposed a controversial new rule that would reduce the duration of student visas, therefore increasing the frequency with which students need to reapply through an already arduous process. The rule never went into effect but was on the table for months before President Biden took office, likely leaving many international students leery of studying in the US.
More broadly, on President Biden’s first day in office he repealed the infamous travel ban imposed by the Trump administration in 2017 which halted travel to the US from 13 countries, with six more added early last year. The promise to end the ban was a key pillar of President Biden’s campaign and not only re-opens the door to the US for students from the specified countries, but is a step in the right direction to erasing the image of fervent nationalism imposed by many of former President Trump’s policies.
President Biden’s foreign policy vision for the US aims to “restore dignified leadership at home and respected leadership on the world stage”, beginning with reentering several international agreements and treaties that the Trump administration withdrew from. For everyone from students to diplomats, this signifies the new administration’s eagerness to restore a globalistic attitude in the US which embraces people from different countries, backgrounds and cultures.
Additionally for China, which sends more students to study in the US than any other country in the world, President Biden’s appointment offers a reprieve. It’s no secret that the Trump presidency took a substantial toll on the relationship between the US and China; but with a new chief executive seeking to restore camaraderie between the two countries and China’s top diplomat calling for reconciliation, the situation could be on the mend.
The current admissions cycle has been the most competitive in history for countless universities — especially those in the already cutthroat Ivy League. Record-high application numbers have cast a bright light on the value of an education from a world-leading university, and with the US poised to welcome more international students in the upcoming admissions cycle, the competition will only grow stiffer.
Wondering how you can put together a college application that stands out in a crowd of tens of thousands? Crimson can help. Learn more about how we ensure students put their best foot forward when applying to the most prestigious institutions in the world by clicking the link below to schedule a free consultation with one of our academic advisors.