College Groups Ask Biden to Drop Curbs on Foreign Students (1)

  • Colleges want withdrawal of rule limiting student stays, H-1Bs
  • Also seek end to investigations over schools’ foreign funding

(Adds response from Education Department in last paragraph.)

College groups are asking the incoming Biden administration to reverse recent rules they say threaten to dampen the prospects of international enrollment at U.S. colleges.

President-elect Joe Biden should withdraw rules proposed by the Trump administration that would limit the length of time international students can stay in the U.S. and that restrict access to H-1B visas, higher education lobby groups say.

They also want the incoming administration to maintain Optional Practical Training, a program that allows foreign students to work in the U.S. in their field of study after graduating.

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
President-elect Joe Biden delivers an address in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 7, 2020.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the American Council on Education, the most influential lobby groups in Washington, made the recommendations in separate documents sent to the Biden transition team. The APLU released its policy priorities Monday; ACE sent a list of recommendations late last week.

The recommendations run a gamut of issues from international enrollment to sexual misconduct on campus, student loans and oversight of free inquiry on campus. Several of the priorities, like restoration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, have already been endorsed by Biden. But the lists point to a number of other actions he could take to reverse Trump’s higher ed policies.

The focus on regulations affecting foreign students in particular indicate colleges are concerned about international enrollment, which saw the biggest dropoff in 16 years even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S.

International Students

Colleges, along with business groups and tech firms, lobbied the Trump administration for months to avoid big cuts to the Optional Practical Training program. The program survived but uncertainty over its future “sent deeply harmful messages abroad and buoyed competitor countries in recruiting students away from the U.S.,” according to the APLU.

Now colleges warn that proposed Trump rules to limit international students’ duration of stay to a fixed time period, rather than allowing them to stay for their full length of studies, along with limits on H-1B visas, could further undermine international enrollment.

In addition to restoring DACA protections for undocumented students, the college groups said Biden should also rescind a rule issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that restricted federal pandemic aid from going to those students.

The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the recommendations.

Investigations of Colleges

Colleges also want a reset on the Education Department’s recent focus on foreign funding at U.S. colleges. Over the past year, the agency has opened investigations into at least 12 colleges—including Georgetown, Stanford and the University of Texas System—over failures to report foreign gifts or contracts worth more than $250,000, as required by the Higher Education Act.

The APLU said the Biden administration should immediately end the “unnecessarily adversarial” investigations. ACE said it should also end an investigation into systemic racism at Princeton University opened after the school’s president acknowledged in an open letter past failures involving race at the campus.

Both groups called for scrapping a Trump executive order on race and sex stereotyping, which they say has chilled diversity training programs.

The recommendations also said the Biden administration should tweak a Title IX campus sexual misconduct rule issued by DeVos. In addition the groups endorsed negotiated rulemaking to issue new regulations on borrower defense and gainful employment regulations to protect students from poor quality college programs. DeVos overhauled the Obama borrower defense rule in regulations issued earlier this year and rescinded gainful employment regulations.

Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said complacency of past administrations in tracking foreign funding to colleges “essentially allowed institutions to form covert financial ties with adversarial foreign nations.” She said undoing the Trump administration’s Title IX rule would be a “policy misstep, and a step backward for all students.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Kreighbaum in Washington at akreighbaum@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

Top