Trump Travel Ban Expansion Could Affect HBCUs NPR's Michel Martin speaks with David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, about how the potential travel ban expansion might affect historically black colleges and universities.

Trump Travel Ban Expansion Could Affect HBCUs

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This week, President Trump is expected to announce an expansion of his controversial travel ban that prohibits nearly all people from selected countries from traveling to or immigrating to the United States. The original travel ban was one of Mr. Trump's first initiatives upon taking office and focused primarily on Muslim-majority countries. It took years of court challenges before it was finally upheld. This latest iteration is focused on a range of countries.

NPR has confirmed that the seven countries expected to be added to the ban are Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Belarus. Indeed, some of the countries listed are known for having high visa overstay rates, but some of these countries also send many students to American colleges and universities, particularly historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. We wanted to get more perspective on this, so we've called on David Wilson. He is the president of Morgan State University. That's an historically black university in Baltimore, Md. President Wilson, thank you so much for joining us.

DAVID WILSON: Hi, Michel. It's a, really, honor to talk with you about this subject.

MARTIN: So, first, can I just get your thoughts on the initial travel ban and the reporting that this ban is being expanded to the countries that I just named? How do you react to this?

WILSON: Well, when the initial travel ban was proposed, we had quite a few international students at Morgan who were very alarmed and concerned. And so my first thought was to pool our international community together to let them know, of course, that we have one big umbrella at Morgan, and everyone fits under that umbrella. And so they were very, very pleased to hear that. But, of course, you know, they were very concerned about what it meant for their continued stay in the United States. And at Morgan, we have roughly 10% of our nearly 8,000 students or so at Morgan who are international, representing 60 countries. And of that 10%, about 20% of those students are from Nigeria. And we have had very, very strong ties with the entire continent of Africa for decades - not only Morgan, but many HBCUs.

MARTIN: The Washington Post wrote a feature about Morgan State a couple of months ago, and it cited that - foreign students as an important part of the university's continued stability and growth. And I'll just quote here from the piece. The piece said, "foreign students, especially from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, are a booming demographic at HBCUs. At Morgan, 738 international students were enrolled in the fall of 2018, from 286 in 2006." And the reporter says that these students often pay full tuition, a monetary boost for schools that often serve students from low-income families relying on financial aid. Is that true - is that many of your international students do pay full tuition?

WILSON: That is true. And this has been a conscious effort on our part to increase our brand on the international stage. We have actually done that very, very well. And we are bringing the world to Morgan. And domestic students really appreciate the fact that we have all the different cultures on our campus. Our international students feel very, very welcome on the campus. They feel that Morgan is a place where they belong.

And so when I heard the proposed ban that had Nigeria in it, understand, I had a senior administrative team in Africa - they just returned yesterday - looking at how we could actually partner with a couple of existing African universities to deliver two or three Morgan State degrees there. And so this was really devastating for us to hear. And so I don't know who is really advising the administration on some of the policies. And I don't know what the motives are. But I just don't think this is really good for higher education in America in general and is definitely not good for HBCUs.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, we've discussed the fact that many of these international students come with full funding, whether it's individual, whether it's through foundation support or funds within their countries that are interesting in supporting their education overseas. But what benefit would you say it is to the United States to have these international students studying here?

WILSON: It is of enormous importance to have these students on our campuses because, first of all, we send about - what? - 750,000 or so students every year to study abroad. That's a small fraction of all the students on our campuses. And therefore you have, you know, 95% or so of all students in American colleges not being exposed, perhaps, to the kind of cultures that exist around the world.

So when we are able to bring these international students from all walks of the world to our campuses, it really enables domestic students, many of whom have never gone outside of the country, to be in environments now where they understand different cultures. They understand different histories of the world. They engage in robust discussion and debate. And everybody wins.

And when you cut that off, I just fear for what really will happen with regard to our students being in environments where they can go to the cafeteria and sit, and at that table, you know, they have, you know, five countries represented.

MARTIN: That's David Wilson. He's president of Morgan State University. That's an historically black university in Baltimore, Md. President Wilson, thank you so much for talking to us today.

WILSON: Michel, thank you for having me.

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