U.S. Universities prepare for fallout from China-U.S. trade dispute
Daniel Williams
American universities include some of the top-ranked institutions globally, and they draw interest from students around the world.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, nearly 1.1 million international students studied in the U.S. in the 2017-18 school year, generating 45 billion U.S. dollars - around a third of those students are from China.
But that relationship is under threat.
Chinese students have found themselves in the middle of increased tensions between the U.S. and China – fueled in large part by the ongoing trade war.
A tightening of American visa restrictions has seen denials and delays increase, making it difficult for Chinese students to complete their studies.  
“It's sad for students. They are more afraid if they go back to China to visit parents, they are more afraid they might not come back again,” President of the Northwestern University Chinese Student & Scholar Association Jason Liu said.
Liu feels some students may start looking at other options. “They have to think about if they really want to go to U.S. universities maybe some other choices like Europe, like Australia, maybe some other choices they can choose.”  
China has issued a travel alert for the U.S., warning its citizens that Chinese nationals have been subjected to interrogations and harassment by American law enforcement agencies.
The education ministry has also urged students to step up their safety awareness.
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is home to some 5,800 Chinese students. Eight hundred of those students attend the University's Gies College of Business, accounting for a fifth of the school's income.
Realizing the risk, Jeff Brown, the dean of the school, took out an insurance policy. 
“Not that this would permanently solve the problem but it would buy us time so that we wouldn't find ourselves having to react in the moment,” Brown said.
That insurance policy, costing a premium of 424,000 U.S. dollars annually, expires next year. Although the college wants to renew, there are concerns the premiums could become even more expensive, given the escalating trade dispute.
Brown would like to see a change in policy, making it easier for international students to stay and work in the U.S.
"When we train somebody and they have a PhD in engineering, why wouldn't we want to keep them here to create companies and innovate, rather than send them back," Brown said.
Chinese enrollment at the University of Illinois dropped 2.2 percent last year-the first decline in decades. The current trade friction could exacerbate the declining enrollment of U.S. schools. 
(Cover: The University of Illinois at Urbana Champiagn has some 5,800 Chinese students. /CGTN Photo)