The Trump administration, out of concern for national security, implemented measures shortening visas for Chinese graduate students looking to study aviation, robotics and advanced manufacturing from five years to one on Monday, June 11, according to a Science article.
During the 2016-17 academic year, almost one third of international students in the United States were from China, according to the Institute for International Education. At Stony Brook University alone, more than half of the 4,685 total international students enrolled during the fall 2017 semester came from China.
President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. posted an announcement on Stony Brook’s Facebook page before the policy was implemented, on June 1, condemning the then-potential visa restrictions.
“This policy is likely to be ineffective in dealing with the issue of theft of intellectual property and will undoubtedly reduce U.S. competitiveness by discouraging talented international students from studying at U.S. universities,” the announcement read. “This policy, however, will have a chilling effect on our ability to recruit outstanding scientists. It will also almost certainly cause more talented undergraduate and graduate students to do their studies in China, which is one of the major goals of current Chinese initiatives to grow innovation and research at home.”
The new restrictions come at a time when American universities are looking to attract students from China.
For instance, Stony Brook, along with the University of New Hampshire and a few other universities, have begun accepting test scores from the Chinese National Higher Education Entrance Exam, known as the Gaokao.
In November 2017, Stony Brook University founded the China Center, an office aimed specifically at assisting current and recruiting new Chinese international students. In April, President Stanley even embarked on a recruitment tour across China, giving info sessions to admitted students.
Dr. Jun Liu, vice provost for global affairs and dean for international academic programs and services, wrote in an email, “U.S. higher education, [especially] graduate programs in STEM areas heavily rely on international graduate students. In some majors, more than 70% of international students are from China. Restricting visas of talented Chinese doctoral students in these areas is like putting a stoppage on the running water while living with the consequence of being thirsty.”
International students often pay full out-of-state tuition, making their enrollment an important source of revenue for Stony Brook. Stony Brook’s total out-of-state costs for a graduate student in 2017-18 — including tuition, fees, room and board — came to $37,421. The same costs for an in-state student would be $26,081.
Claire Sun, a Chinese international student who will be a junior in the fall 2018 semester double majoring in business and applied math and statistics, argued that the policy won’t resolve concerns about intellectual theft and national security in the U.S.
“I think that the visa change doesn’t really solve the concerns about intellectual theft and national security in the U.S.,” she wrote over Facebook Messenger. “As an international student who studied here for 3 years, I think that most of the knowledge I have learned can be [found] from the public resources.”
Sun isn’t planning on going to graduate school, so she doesn’t believe she will be affected.
“I don’t feel like the policies will affect us, like the people who already have visas,” she said. “I don’t think [the policy] will affect a lot, but probably for some majors a lot will be affected.”
Stanley wrote in his announcement that attracting the best and brightest from around the world to study at American research universities is one of the critical components of America’s leadership in innovation and competitiveness in the global economy.
“There should be frank and open discussions between universities and the federal government on how to deal with issues around intellectual property,” the announcement read. “But any solution from these discussions must preserve the ability of U.S. research universities to continue to recruit outstanding talent from around the world, including China. We risk our competitive advantage in the race to lead the global economy if this is lost.”