What Can International Students Expect From Biden’s Presidency in 2021?

United States North America International Studies by Erudera News Jan 22, 2021

joe biden

Biden’s election as the 46th US president was welcoming news for more than one million international students in the US, in particular for those affected by Trump’s harsh anti-immigration policies, who have been going through many challenges since then.

During the presidential primary 2020, a poll carried out by Erudera with 430 participants from different countries has shown that a total of 71.1 per cent of international students in the United States favoured Biden, over Trump who received the support of only 28.9 per cent of international students.

Among the top priorities of President Biden is diversity. Together with Vice President Kamala Harris, they have planned creation of an immigration reform programme in order to create a more welcoming environment for international students pursuing studies in the United States.

One of his intentions is doing the utmost to abolish private lenders, expand post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and invest in education institutions serving students of colour, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as other minority-serving institutions, Erudera reports.

On his first day at the office, Biden proposed an immigration bill that paves the way to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and immediately allows eligibility for green cards for the young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Among others, he also signed a memorandum ordering the Secretary of Homeland Security to undertake actions in preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The latter offers protection against deportation and work authorization of certain young undocumented immigrants – dreamers, which includes many college students and alumni.

Biden’s efforts on protecting the DACA program were applauded by the higher education groups.

“We are gratified that the Biden administration is also acting to correct a number of misguided immigration and visa policies, many of which affected international students and fed a perception that the United States no longer welcomes students from across the globe,” the president of the American Council on Education, Ted Mitchell said.

Less Restrictive Visa Issuance Expected Under Biden’s Government

After Biden’s win in November 2020, the Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA, Esther Brimmer issued a statement in which she said that the past four years had been one of the most challenging periods during which international educators have shown “unparalleled strength and resilience”.

“They have defended the field against travel bans, executive orders, detrimental regulatory actions, and xenophobic rhetoric. Now we face a horrific pandemic, which further threatens our field and our lives,” she said.

Whereas, the Head of Department of Liberal Arts & Humanities, School of Liberal Arts & Sciences, American Degree Transfer Program, Taylor’s University, Prema Ponnudurai writes in an article that some of the initiatives expected from the Biden’s government in attracting international community might be:

  • Less restrictive visa issuance related to the global community – previous visa restrictions for students from some countries to be assessed while acceptance for student F1 visa applications and extensions for a student visa are expected to increase.
  • Decrease of international travel and closure of certain borders in 2021 could lead to an increase in the competition of US universities for international market share.
  • Increase in transfer pathways as opposed to direct entry in universities in the United States.

Addressing College Affordability, Another Priority of Biden

Under Biden’s administration, student loan debts are expected to be less problematic, as the latter has backed the proposal of Senator Elizabeth Warren during elections regarding cancellation of $10,000 debt per student borrower, as a COVID-19 relief.

Under his plan, persons earning $25,000 or less per year are not obliged to pay the loan.

According to his website, for public servants, his plan includes the creation of a program which offers “$10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for every year of national or community service, up to five years”.

The student loan debt in the United States surpassed the amount of $1.5 trillion and is held by 42.9 million people, according to the Federal Student Aid, an office of the Department of Education. 

Moreover, Biden has notified that among his plans is to address the college affordability, by making them tuition-free for students whose families make less than $125,000 a year, and to double the federal Pell Grant offered to students who prove financial need, with a maximum of $6,345 for the 2020-21 academic year, an amount which will not have to be repaid by students.

The number of international students in the United States increased slightly or not at all during President Donald Trump administration.

During 2018-19, the number of international students in American universities grew by only 0.5 per cent while during 2019-20, a decline of two per cent was noticed, which was also the first decline since 2005.

Travel bans imposed during former President Donald Trump’s administration affected the Muslim majority countries, while international students were affected by the proposal to limit visa terms, and there was also deep suspicion of Chinese students.

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