Could slide in Seattle’s international students continue under Trump?

Slogan to one of the schools in the Seattle College district with a slogan on an emphasis of community. (Photo by Michael Thornbloom)

International Student full-time enrollment has decreased 10 to 20 percent for the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to a Seattle Colleges budget report last November. The steady decline over several years playing a large part in the current budget cuts this district is facing.

There was nearly a $1.9 million reduction in International Student tuition in 2015-16 from the previous fiscal year, according to a 2016 annual financial report by the Seattle Colleges district. The report also predicts how the decline of International Student tuition will persist in coming years.

But some International Students say the visa policies of President Donald Trump won’t help boost those numbers, as the immigration process in the U.S. becomes increasingly difficult to navigate.

“At first, when you came here with your visa and when it was about to expire you don’t need to take another interview you just need to send your paperwork back to your country.” said Giang Ding, an international student at Seattle Central College from Vietnam.

A local publication from a Vietnamese website called VietNamNet reported that Vietnamese students and travelers will undergo stricter interview processes and possibly higher rates of rejection after changes in U.S. visa policies.

During visa applications there are no guarantees and Trump has instructed to make this screening process tougher on applicants. It hasn’t been clear who will be the target for the “extreme vetting” but the effort will increase the likelihood of denial for those attempting to come to the United States, the New York Times reported.

Ding says she and her fellow International Students from Vietnam worry that this could mean that they wouldn’t be able to return to the U.S. to finish school if they left the country.

“The rule changed and you need to go back to your country and do the interview again but we are not so sure we can get a yes for that interview or not.” Ding said. “So we all are afraid to go back to our country and just want to stay here and finish studying.”

Since the recent presidential election there have been several moves by President Donald Trump regarding visa screening that are having ripple effects around the four schools that make up Seattle Colleges: Seattle Central College, North Seattle College, South Seattle College and Seattle Vocational Institute.

And Seattle Colleges are not alone in seeing a decrease in International Students. Inside Higher Ed, a publication about colleges and universities, reported that 40 percent of colleges surveyed are seeing declines in applications from international students and families are expressing concerns about changes in visa policies.

Banners hang in the Seattle Central cafeteria illustrating the diversity the college brings to Seattle. (Photo by Michael Thornbloom)

Seattle Colleges Chancellor Shouan Pan said the visa uncertainty is not the only reason for the drop in International Student enrollment. He added that many colleges throughout the country have been competing in recent years to enroll International Students.

“More and more upper-level middle class want to send their kids abroad.” Pan said. “The recent immigration policy, the conversations with the election of the Trump Administration may have given different signals.”

International Student tuition is nearly three times what in-state students pay in tuition at Seattle Central.

Pan mentioned that violence in recent years against foreign students around the U.S. get big play internationally — especially with the new leadership in the White House.

“If the American government seems like the new president isn’t welcoming — there is robbing, there is violence — then right away students are looking at other countries.”

CNBC reported shortly after the election that International Students may be hesitant to study in the United States with Trump in office, signaling a possible shift in how the United States is viewed by the rest of the world.

“Based on the nationalist and protectionists ideas, Donald Trump will restrict more and more opportunities for foreigners to excel in the U.S. Therefore, students will face much stricter rules to acquire F-1 Visa to begin studying in the U.S. and will likely face harder situations after their education,” one student told CNBC.

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