Going down Trumps: what's at stake with US travel ban

Having recently surpassed one million international students studying in country during an academic year for 2015/16, the US has found itself in a precarious position. Bluntly, the world’s largest study destination by student numbers, value and jobs can not afford minor deflation. Even single digit percentage drops equate to tens of thousands fewer international students in the US.

Assuming a conservatively modest decrease of 1.6%, the US market shrinks by 16,700 international students. By comparison, New York University currently enrolls 15,900 international students.

Economically, losing 1.6% of a market is significant. A decrease of that size sees over US$500m disappear from the US economy, based on NAFSA’s calculation that each international student contributes US$31,000 annually.

Significantly, for the US jobs market, a platform President Trump campaigned on, a drop in students threatens the 400,000 jobs created or supported by international education. According to NAFSA, three jobs are created or supported for every seven international students enrolled. A 1.6% decrease means 7,100 jobs vanish, seven times more than the 1,000 jobs Trump claimed to save by persuading air conditioner company, Carrier, from moving operations to Mexico.

Modest changes, however, defy historical data. Considering recent growth and decline levels of most destination markets, including the US, fluctuations in international student totals are more likely to be above 4% than they are to be below. The US in particular has a propensity to go big, with its decade of growth producing only two instances under 4%:
2005/06 - 3.3% growth
2009/10 - 2.9% growth
At the time, that represented 18,218 and 19,300 international students respectively.

Since 2006/07, the US averaged 6.4% growth annually. Impact predictions for student numbers, value and jobs get significantly more dire the closer the drop gets to that average.

On a state level, a modest 1.6% decrease is Oregon’s contribution to student numbers, value and jobs removed from 2015/16 figures with enough spare to take Alaska with it. A 6.4% decrease is as big as Texas.

How many students are directly or indirectly affected by the executive order banning entry to the US for citizens of seven countries is not known yet. The best data available comes from IIE, which shows the 2015/16 combined numbers from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen total 17,354.

1.66% of the US’ international student population.

Written by Anton Crace, PIER Market Development Manager
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