The United States has always been a popular study destination, although some students are researching other options as a precaution.
THERE has been much hullabaloo since President Donald Trump took office in January.
The 45th president of the United States (US) has signed many orders and presidential memorandums so far.
A 90-day travel ban on six Muslim countries was one of his controversial executive orders, leaving many stumped.
Although Malaysia is not on the banned list, the policy has caused a reasonable amount of uncertainty among students.
United States Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir said US colleges and universities take pride in providing safe, welcoming environments for all their students.
“I want to stress how welcome you are in the United States.
“Many universities have come together to send a specific and direct message to students around the world through the #YouAreWelcomeHere Campaign.
“I join them in welcoming you to the United States, where our colleges and universities offer valuable educational opportunities to help meet your life and career goals,” she said in a statement.
Lakhdhir said Malaysia is one of the top 25 places of origin of international students in the US.
“Nearly 8,000 Malaysian students studied in the US this year, an 8.3% increase over last year.
“This is a testament to the unmatched quality of American higher education in the eyes of many Malaysian students and their families,” she said.
Over one million international students are now in US higher education institutions, maintaining the United States’ long-standing position as the world’s top host nation for international students.
International students from diverse backgrounds strengthen ties between the United States and countries around the world, developing the relationships between people and communities that are necessary to solve global challenges, she added.
“We value inclusion, and actively support students from diverse racial, ethnic, religious, and geographical backgrounds on campuses across the United States.
“Colleges and universities across the United States value international students for the unique and diverse perspectives you provide both in and out of classrooms,” she said.
Lakhdhir said American students and communities benefit from the unique opportunity interaction brings to expand their own world views, which helps prepare all of us for shared, successful futures in an interconnected world.
Assuring students that they have nothing to worry about, US Embassy spokesman Drake Weisert said it approves approximately 99% of Malaysian student visas.
“The number of Malaysian students travelling to the US has increased steadily,” he said in e-mail to The Star,
On March 26, the Miami Herald reported that a study from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers revealed, virtually 40% of American colleges are reporting a decline in international applications, while 35% say there’s been an increase.
Weisert said US universities are aware of the negative perceptions, and have been addressing concerns and countering misperceptions.
He stressed that Malaysia is not on any sort of list of countries requiring extra vetting for visas.
“Malaysian students invariably have a terrific experience in the United States, and we are hopeful that the number of Malaysian students continues to increase in the coming years,” he said.
Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE) executive director Dr James Coffman said: “The negative image of the ban has projected throughout the world, will certainly cause some Malaysians to think more carefully about the idea of studying in the US.”
Dr Coffman said the ban will not have a big impact on American Degree Transfer Programme (ADP) enrolments in Malaysian higher learning institutions.
Dr Coffman stressed that the US remains a good destination for Malaysian students, as it offers high quality universities and provides a lot of financial aid to international students.
Lakhdhir concurred, saying that they can apply for scholarships and financial aid before they enrol in a programme, as well as throughout their time in college.
“Once you have decided on a major, there are multiple specific forms of financial aid, scholarships and grants that you can apply for.
“You generally are allowed to combine your scholarship and financial aid offers, so, I would encourage you to apply to as many as possible,” she added.
Prof Barry Eichengreen who is a professor of economics and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, said: “Many of my students are made up of international students.”
“It is one of the real strengths of the university and it would make me sad if that (aspect) became more difficult.
“The university is working as hard as it can to make it easier for the students,” he added.
Prof Eichengreen was in Kuala Lumpur recently, to give a talk titled “The Economic Consequences of Mr Trump” as part of the Jeffrey Cheah Distinguished Speakers Series.
“In the long run, we don’t know how these policies by Trump will affect Malaysian students who wish to study in the US,” he said, advising students to keep applying because educators and universities still want foreign students to come to the United States.
Taylor’s University School of Liberal Arts and Sciences head of school Dr Matthew D Johnson is looking at the bright side of things.
He said while it is still too soon to predict the impact, he believes the academic relationship between both countries will see an increase in exchange between scholars.
“There is much that both sides can learn from one another.
“Higher education is a highly internationalised field these days, and that is a trend that is going to keep deepening,” he added.
Dr Johnson said as far as Taylor’s is concerned, there have been no major concerns from the varsity’s ADP students.
“That’s not to say that there isn’t some sense of curiosity about reported changes, but overall, our students are a talented and resilient group of young learners and they feel optimistic about the experience and benefits of international study in the US.
“Study in the US is still highly desirable and universities are still fully open to applications from international students. In fact, what I’m hearing is that US higher education institutions are more enthusiastic about international applications than ever,” he added.
Taylor’s University ADP director Prema Ponnudurai said as parents and stakeholders value the philosophy of the American education system, there has been no significant change in the varsity’s ADP enrolment numbers.
HELP University American Degree Programme department head Dr Gerard Boey Kong Hoong said while Malaysia is not affected, it would be helpful if the US government clarifies its policy to reduce uncertainty.
“Our enrolment programme has experienced positive growth, and our present students are currently preparing and eager to pursue higher education in the US,” he said.
He said ADP students who have gone to the US have settled in well, while current students preparing to leave for the country have not encountered any difficulty in getting their visa.
“The embassy is very supportive in promoting US education through university networking and providing talks on various topics.
“On regular occasions, we also have international representatives from various US universities conducting workshops and promotional talks to students about studying there,” he said.
SEGi University & Colleges group president and executive director Datuk Mohamed Azahari Mohamed Kamil said its ADP enrolment has not dropped.
“Our students are still passionate about going to the US to further their studies and are eyeing Ivy League institutions,” he said.
He said SEGi recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Toledo (UT) for its business students to study two years in SEGi and two years in UT, and subsequently, receive dual accreditation from both varsities upon graduating.Study Excel Sdn Bhd general manager Jerry Tan does not foresee any trouble for Malaysian students obtaining visas to further their studies in the US.
He said ADP students have other options apart from the US to choose from.
“If students are concerned that they will be denied a visa to enter the US, they can always opt to go to the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia,” he said.
Lakhdhir said consular officials at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and at American embassies and consulates around the world continue to work diligently to process student visa requests. EducationUSA advisers worldwide are ready to answer questions about studying in the United States, she said.
“As the US Ambassador to Malaysia, I personally encourage those of you who have received offers of admission to accept this life-changing opportunity and join your peers in experiencing the unique value of an American higher education,” said Lakhdhir.
She congratulated all students in Malaysia who have received offers of admission from the 4,500 plus accredited institutions of higher learning in the United States.
“Graduates of US universities have gone on to become leaders and innovators in many fields around the world.
“You should be proud of the invitation to join this special and select group of young people whose lives will be changed forever by the dynamism, openness, and quality of campuses across the United States.”
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