University leaders are concerned about how federal government policies are affecting higher education in the U.S., one prominent university head told CNBC on Wednesday.
Max Nikias, president of the University of Southern California, discussed the education sector's fears for over-reaching regulation by the government.
"There hasn't been a major impact yet, but it's something we're concerned about, we lobby congress — we're always worried about government over-regulation in American higher education, especially as a private, independent research university, but it remains to be seen if there is going to be a major impact," he said.
The Trump administration's perceived hostility to immigration and what that might mean for international student enrollment in U.S. universities is a particular point of worry for the educational establishment.
Donald Trump's presidency has been seen in part as a result of a mounting backlash against immigration with opponents of increased international arrivals believing that they could take jobs from American citizens. USC's President Nikias rejected that perspective.
"The balance of international students — there is nothing wrong with it. Our university has been welcoming international students for last 140 years," Nikias said. "Clearly from my perspective I'd like to diversify international student enrolment." USC is opening a London office this year.
Out of the Los Angeles-based university's 38,000 students, about 23 percent are from abroad. The challenge of students being able to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation is a major issue for universities and many employers alike, who argue that the country loses valuable talent because of restrictive visa regulations.
"That's exactly the reason we lobby Congress, because we'd like the international students, especially those in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines, to be able to work in the U.S. after they get their degrees," Nikias explained. Universities are some of the most prominent lobbyists on immigration issues at a federal level.