Our halcyon days are over. For the first time in 12 years, the number of international undergraduate applicants to the University of California has decreased. Countries with large Muslim populations collectively sent in 10 percent fewer applications. Applications from Mexico decreased by 30 percent.
It might be tempting to look at the overall 1 percent decrease in applications and sidestep panic. But in the context of the rapid, consistent growth the university had experienced until now, this number has troubling implications. The decrease must serve as a wake-up call for the UC administration.
There are a plethora of theories that skeptics might invoke to explain the decline, from state disinvestment to rising tuition costs. But those problems have plagued the university for a while now, and the number of applications still grew each year regardless.
It was not until November, when UC applications were due and Donald Trump won the election, that a 12-year period of growth in international applications — including an 11 percent growth in 2015-16 and 10 percent in 2014-15 — suddenly ended.
It should come as no surprise that a president who ran on alienating platforms, specifically to Muslims and Latinx communities, would have a negative impact on students’ decision to study in the United States.
While the UC system often juggles its commitment to the state of California with its appeal to out-of-state students, it must remember that as a globally renowned research institution, it also holds a responsibility to international students and researchers. International students contribute a unique perspective to our campuses that improves the level of discourse for all students. Beyond that, studies have shown that most international students wish to remain in this country after they graduate and contribute to the economy.
Trump is not the only one to blame here — the decrease in the number of international students willing to apply to UC campuses is also indicative of a culture of exclusivity that benefits California residents. Administrators must reaffirm their support for international students and increase the resources available to them.
For instance, the university should provide resources for international students to find jobs that complement their visas. F1 visas allow students of certain majors, notably in STEM fields, more time and opportunities to work in the country.
Trump has triumphed on an isolationist rhetoric that pits the interests of the United States against those of foreign countries. The university must succeed where Trump has failed and reaffirm the importance of diversity by welcoming and supporting all students, no matter their nationality. It must strengthen the University of California’s global reputation as the appeal of attending college in the United States diminishes among international students.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.