Trump could end the dream of many international students

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American universities have long been recognized as top institutions to prepare for a career, attracting bright people from all over the world. But the dreams of many young people looking for the chance to study abroad could be dashed if Donald Trump follows through on his "America First" anti-immigration campaign promises.

In the last academic year, the number of international students attending U.S. universities broke new records, increasing 7 percent from the previous year and reaching one million for the first time, according to data released by the Institute of International Education. In total they represented 5 percent of the students in U.S. higher education.

According to Allan Goodman, president of the IIE, "international students are pragmatic and resilient" when choosing their university.

"The only time that the total number of international students coming to the United States actually dropped was for a brief period following 9/11, when there were specific policy shifts that affected student visas," Goodman told CNBC via email.

Remarks by President-elect Donald Trump on controlling immigration could dissuade overseas students and hit university numbers and revenues.

"I am sure that some international students will be hesitant to study in the United States now. They will be concerned about potentially being targeted," Daniel Baack, assistant dean and full-time MBA program director at the University of Denver, told CNBC via email.

Baack recognized that though there are many influencers affecting tuition fees, a "large drop in international students" would have "financial consequences for many universities."

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump announces his tax plan during a press conference at Trump Tower in New York on September 28, 2015.
Dominick Reuter | AFP | Getty Images

A former student at a Washington-based university, who preferred not to be named, explained that possible future restrictions to studying and working visas would dissuade him from applying now to study in the U.S.

"If I was a student again and a South Korea-born overseas student then I would not apply for the U.S. universities," the former international student told CNBC.

"Based on the nationalist and protectionists ideas, Donald Trump will restrict more and more opportunities for foreigners to excel in the U.S. Therefore, students will face much stricter rules to acquire F-1 Visa to begin studying in the U.S. and will likely face harder situations after their education," he added.

Zhuorui Fu, a Chinese student with a degree from a U.S. university told CNBC that the election of Donald Trump did not change her mind about pursuing further academic studies in the U.S. "I will study in the U.S. anyway because whatever is happening is only transient," she said, adding however, "Will I study in places like Georgia? No."

President-elect Donald Trump is only taking office next year, but according to Goodman from IEE, some universities have started boosting their resources to keep attracting international students.

"We know that U.S. campuses are actively reaching out to prospective and current international students to make sure they continue to feel welcome, while U.S. Embassies and EducationUSA advisers around the world continue to promote U.S. higher education globally," Goodman added.

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