Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Wait, now Norwegian students are afraid to study in the U.S.?

Seattle Pacific University
Flickr photo/Curtis Cronn/
Seattle Pacific University

Something unusual happened on Jobe Korb-Nice's most recent international trip to recruit students for Seattle Pacific University. Students expressed fear about coming to America.

And Korb-Nice wasn't in one of seven Muslim countries covered by President Donald Trump's travel ban. He was in Norway. 

That hints at possible reverse effects of Trump's immigration orders: The United States could be walled off from abroad by fear and universities might take a financial hit as a result.

Korb-Nice said this week that on his recent trip almost every student started the conversation by asking what he thought of Trump. 

And the conversation quickly moved on to, "What is Trump doing with the immigration executive orders?” 

In addition to the travel ban, Trump says he plans to build a wall along the southern border and to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

Korb-Nice said most of the conversations involved answering questions like, “Can I come to the U.S., should I come to the U.S., will I be safe in the U.S.?"

Jean D'arc Campbell runs the international student recruiting program at Bellevue College. He said he hears very similar sentiments from students and fellow recruiters.

"There is a fear that foreigners are not welcome in the United States," he said. "I think that is the message."

Campbell said the fear is coming from students and their families all over the world, including Japan. And that surprises him most of all because Japan has been such a close ally of the United States for many years. 

Gene Baker has had similar experiences as a recruiter for South Seattle College. And Baker said the feeling of fear is mutual. He is “sure it will affect our enrollment numbers."

Nobody knows exactly how student enrollment could be effected. But this winter, the University of Washington saw a 7 percent drop in applications from Chinese students compared to last year. The University of British Columbia reported a 14 percent increase.

Of course, many factors could explain that difference. But then-candidate Donald Trump did mention China – a lot.

Esther Brimmer, executive director for the Association of International Educators, said even if students aren't from one of the seven nations in the travel ban, they're "concerned that their country is the next one."

And she shares recruiters' concerns that the U.S. could see a big drop in applications next year.

But why should Washingtonians care if international students turn their back on the United States?  

Brimmer sees value in political and cultural exchange, but beyond that there's the economics for Washington. International student tuition money also helps subsidize costs for in-state students at public universities.

"$825 million of financial contributions come from international students and their families," she said. "That means nearly 8,000 jobs." 

Year started with KUOW: 2004