Why We Need International Students

For decades, international students have enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States, with strong consensus that they fuel American innovation, job creation, and competitiveness. But in recent years, their access to U.S. colleges and universities has come under threat, and other nations are seizing the opportunity to bring in the world’s brightest students.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Podcast Host and Producer
Episode Guests
  • Edward Alden
    Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow
  • Esther Brimmer
    James H. Binger Senior Fellow in Global Governance

Show Notes

In July, the Donald J. Trump administration enacted a new rule that would have forced international students to attend in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic, or face deportation. This led to a swift backlash from universities, educators, business leaders, and students. Though the rule was reversed, it follows a chain of actions that has sought to curb immigration to the United States. 


This episode examines the profound value that international students offer to the United States, and what the country will lose if it cedes its role as the premier destination for a good education. 


From CFR


Huawei: China’s Controversial Tech Giant,” Lindsay Maizland and Andrew Chatzky


How Are U.S. Colleges Dealing With Coronavirus?,” Anshu Siripurapu


U.S. Temporary Foreign Worker Visa Programs,” Claire Felter 


Beset by Crises, Universities Must Reassert Their Values,”  Foreign Affairs


Read More


U.S. Rescinds Plan to Strip Visas From International Students in Online Classes,” New York Times


How International Students Are Changing U.S. Colleges,” Wall Street Journal 


Trump’s Anti-Immigration Crusade Is About to Strike at the Heart of the U.S. Economy,” Edward Alden, Foreign Policy


New Data Shows Slowdown in Growth of International Students in the U.S.,” Foreign Policy


The Immigrant-Unicorn Connection,” Wall Street Journal


I’m the President of M.I.T. America Needs Foreign Students.,” New York Times


Foreign Student Enrollment At U.S. Universities May Plummet This Fall,” Forbes


Stranded International Students Are Sustaining U.S. College Towns,” Bloomberg Businessweek


After College, International Students Have To Leap Hurdles To Stay In U.S.,” NPR  


Warding off International Students Will Destroy US Jobs,” Medium


Watch or Listen 


Loss of international students will affect US education eco-system,” CNBC


US student visas: ‘We’re at the government’s mercy’,” BBC  


Trump Admin Backs Off Effort To Block Foreign Students From Living In US,”  MSNBC  


FBI Urges Universities To Monitor Some Chinese Students And Scholars In The U.S.,” All Things Considered

Global Governance

In 2022, several colossal events dominated the headlines, most prominently the war in Ukraine and the worldwide inflation that it helped spark. But beyond Ukraine, events with global implications continued to unfold. In this episode, Why It Matters checks in with three CFR fellows and CFR President Richard Haass to understand the least-covered stories of 2022 and to take a peek at what could await the world in 2023.

Technology and Innovation

For years, the world thought of the internet as a borderless zone that brought people from around the world together. But as governments pursue very different regulatory paths, the monolithic internet is breaking apart. Now, where there had been one, there are at least three internets: one led by the United States, one by China, and one by the European Union.

International Organizations

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Qatar, and billions of fans worldwide are tuning in to the world’s most popular live event. And yet as in years past, the Qatar Cup is transpiring under the shadow of controversy.

Top Stories on CFR

Sub-Saharan Africa

PEPFAR’s twentieth anniversary should prompt reflection on some inconvenient truths for U.S.-Africa relations.


Americans need to understand their obligations to one another and to their country if U.S. democracy is to survive.

United States

In addition to minority communities and those on the political left, far-right extremism threatens violence against Republicans as well.