Further action is required of the Biden administration to ensure that the United States “remains the world leader in higher education for decades to come”, according to the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
Included in the organisation’s Administrative Agenda is a range of recommendations for the White House, the Departments of State, Education, Homeland Security and the US Agency for International Development.
The nonpartisan alliance calls for the appointment of a White House-level office to coordinate efforts between agencies, while top politicians and administrators need to continue to communicate the “power of international students and scholars to build a stronger economy, solve global and local challenges, and strengthen our security”.
Further actions – similar to the White House’s National Interest Exceptions for students during Covid-19 and January 2022 initiatives to attract STEM talent and strengthen US economic competitiveness – “will facilitate access to higher education opportunities in the US for refugee learners and other international students”.
The Department of Education should “be a champion” for policies and practices that help to implement the Joint Statement of Principles from 2021 and “continue to provide flexibility to institutions in administering pandemic relief to students, scholars, and others on their campuses”.
The recommendations for both Departments of State and Homeland Security are more extensive, but both are also urged to “continue to articulate the importance of international students and scholars”.
Improved and consistent visa application processing and guidance, especially around evidence of finances, is needed from DOS, as is “transparent and clear” information to students about visa denials.
DHS should prioritise predictable USCIS processing times and implement technological improvements, it added.
“There are dire consequences for students and scholars falling out of or violating immigration status. Reasonable and reliable processing times are critical to ensure maintenance of status,” it reads.
The Presidents’ Alliance also renewed calls to provide Special Student Relief to J-visa holders and connect SSR to Temporary Protected Status.
“Too often, students from nations of strategic interest to the US cannot afford to study in the US”
Additionally, USAID should prioritise international student recruitment as part of the US’s foreign policy and development strategy, implement USAID administrator Samantha Power’s vision outlined prior to her appointment and re-invest in funding international students in “strategic areas of the world”.
“Too often, students from nations of strategic interest to the US cannot afford to study in the US, while other competitor nations are recruiting them and offering them scholarships,” the statement reads.
“Our recommendations seek to unleash the power of international students and scholars to build a stronger economy, solve global and local challenges, and strengthen our security,” Jill Welch, senior policy advisor to the Presidents’ Alliance said.
“This administration has already taken several important steps to empower our colleges and universities in the midst of heightened competition from other nations for these talented students, but further action is still needed.
“These recommendations, if adopted swiftly and comprehensively, could help ensure that the US remains the world leader in higher education for decades to come.”
The US should also look to develop a complementary pathway for refugees through university sponsorship, as “the global refugee crisis continues to grow”, Laura Wagner, project manager for the Initiative on US Education Pathways for Refugee Students at the Presidents’ Alliance.
“In addition to providing an opportunity for refugees to access higher education, it creates a way for colleges and universities to live out their missions and expands the experiential diversity and perspectives on campuses across the US. With added pathways, guidance, and flexibility, colleges and universities stand ready to support the US promise and commitment to welcome and integrate refugees.”
The full list of recommendations is available here.