Travel ban fear may be slowing grad student commitments

Travel ban fear may be slowing grad student commitments
Published: Mar. 18, 2017 at 12:20 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 18, 2017 at 9:42 AM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii has a very strong Persian Studies program, one that attracts plenty of international students, including many from Iran.

"Currently we have 40 applications in from Iran," said Risa Dickson, the school's vice president for Academic Affairs.

Unlike in prior years, commitments from Iranian students aren't coming in swiftly. It's an unusual development, given March is the height of admission season.

"If they're afraid that they're not going to be able to leave, or there are [travel] concerns, then we are not likely to get them," Dickson said.

Dickson blames uncertainty caused by President Trump's attempts to restrict travel from Iran and several other predominately Muslim countries, but local supporters of the President believe it's a stretch to blame the ban for student hesitation.

"There's no guarantee, if this had never even come up, that they would have even gotten these students," Sam Slom said.

Hawaii Pacific University also has student applications from countries named in the order.

"We are encouraging our students and scholars to reach out to the university's Office of International Student and Scholars with any questions or concerns about travel or immigration laws affecting their visas," HPU Provost Matthew Liao-Troth said.

"You have that uncertainty that creates a chilling effect on people who want to travel to the U.S. or study in the U.S., and more locally to travel and study in Hawaii," State Attorney General Doug Chin said.

Hawaii federal judge Derrick Watson blocked the travel ban on Wednesday, but Dickson believes fear over its implementation may still keep students and faculty who come from those Muslim countries from leaving Hawaii to present their research internationally.

"There are people who are not signing up for international research teams.  There are faculty members who are concerned about going home to visit family over the summer because they're afraid they're not going to be able to come home. This is their home," she said.

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