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Embassies are opening, international students will be on campus in fall, and pro-globalization policies now have powerful advocates in Washington. U.S. News Global Education Chair Tom Dretler shares why the future is bright for international students in the U.S.

The American flag flies against a blue sky

Dear Students, Parents and Counselors,

Despite the recent images and headlines coming out of Washington, D.C., change is coming to America on Wednesday, January 20. For members of the international higher education community, this is a time of opportunity and possibility.

At U.S. News Global Education, we see three things that make us particularly optimistic about the road ahead:

1. International students will be on campus this fall

All data sets tell us that U.S. university campuses will soon be open: Many U.S. universities have already set up policies that successfully serve students on campus and control the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, over the coming weeks, there will be widespread distribution of multiple vaccines that are 95% effective across the United States.

We also know that the Biden Administration will be driven by science in its decision making around any COVID-related travel bans. This means we also expect Chinese students to be able to travel to the U.S. seamlessly prior to the start of classes this fall.

2. The Biden Administration will advocate for international students

The incoming administration is already receiving input from college- and university presidents, as well as organizations like USNGE, and is fully aware of the importance of welcoming international students on U.S. university campuses. They are preparing to quickly ramp up capacity at U.S. consulates to support student visa procurement. Perhaps most importantly, moving forward, they are supportive of legislation designed to boost international student growth and success.

We also see this commitment to education across the President-elect’s family and closest advisors. The incoming First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, is a college professor who will continue teaching while in the White House. Cabinet appointees are highly diverse, and some are first-generation immigrants themselves. This is truly a new day in Washington when it comes to understanding the importance of global higher education.

3. Both the legislative and executive branches of government are now pro-globalization

When President-Elect Biden is inaugurated on January 20, the Democratic Party will also take control of the Senate, in addition to maintaining control of the House of Representatives. This was decided on January 5, when two Democratic challengers won a run-off election for the two Senate seats representing the state of Georgia.

In order for new laws to be made in the United States, they require passage in both the lower (House of Representatives) and upper (the Senate) legislative chambers, and then require signature from the President in the Executive Branch. Thanks to the results from Georgia, Democratic control of the legislative branch now means that pro-internationalization laws and policies (such as the recently passed Fairness for Highly Skilled Immigrants Act, which you can read about in my December letter) are far more likely to be passed in the months ahead.

It is an unusual time in America and the world, but better days are ahead. For everyone in international higher education, there is reason for optimism and – soon – celebration.

Tom Dretler
Chair, U.S. News Global Education
Cofounder and CEO, Shorelight
Board member, Johns Hopkins University School of Education

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