Clinton vs. Trump: How Will Their Policies Impact Students & Travelers?

by Mary Ellen Dingley

The 2016 U.S. election is splashed across newspapers and news broadcasts around the world, and now that summer is ending, it’s only going to heat up. Right now, the polls show that Republican candidate, Donald Trump, and Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, are neck and neck, with people on both sides either confident in their presidential candidate or quaking in fear (depending on the day).

Foreign policy is a major campaign tool for both presidential candidates, and Clinton, in particular, has been using it in campaign ads to portray Trump as inexperienced and inept. Immigration is the issue at the forefront, followed closely by and intertwined with terrorism and homeland security.

Door to a polling station
Knowing how candidates’ foreign policy could impact your travel plans is important before you hit the voting booth!

College students, meanwhile, are listening closely to see what the presidential candidates’ views say about higher education and student debt. With Bernie Sanders out of the race, college students are overwhelmingly leaning toward Clinton.

What about the thousands of international students and travelers coming to and from the United States? How will the different policy plans affect them?

The presidential candidates views on education and rhetoric on foreign policy couldn’t be more opposite. After the infamous plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Trump is also well known for his idea of “extreme vetting” of immigrants, which has evolved from a total ban on Muslims entering the United States. Clinton responded that even the mere suggestion of banning Muslims harms U.S. and Middle Eastern relations.

Those differences continue with their other policies…. 

Foreign Policies

Foreign policy has always been central to the election because the president acts as a diplomat, dedicated to building the necessary relationships abroad that support the goals and interests of the American people, while hopefully benefiting the international community.

Clinton’s foreign policy is one of alliance, but also changing opinions: 

  • Considers NATO and other alliances as important investments and will strengthen partnerships
  • Will continue to stand against Russia and Putin
  • Clinton has pivoted before in her long political career on foreign policy (i.e. voting for the Iraq war, but later admitting that she made the wrong choice).

Donald Trump’s Foreign policy is a controversial one meant to put America first: 

  • Trump would restrict the J-1 visa program for foreign workers in the U.S., instead using funding for unemployed youth in cities
  • Would raise the wage for H-1B visas as well to protect American jobs
  • Trump believes that international alliances haven’t treated the U.S. well, and has threatened to leave NATO if it isn’t working for America.
  • Trump openly admires Putin and suggests building better relationships with Russia
  • Believes trade and globalization has hurt normal Americans

Both of the candidates don’t like China, so we guess they could bond over that.

Donald Trump at rally in Arizona
Trump’s policies could mean difficulties for Americans abroad and international students in the U.S. 

Higher Education Policies

The presidential candidates’ views, of course, also strongly differ on higher education. Many people want elected officials and representatives dedicated to making education more accessible to everyone. Higher education is not a zero-sum game. In my dream world, we would also make international education an important part of the curriculum.

Clinton’s education policy is all about affordability: 

  • Debt free public colleges
  • Free tuition at all community colleges

Trump’s higher education policy is harder to pin down, but what we do know is… 

  • NO to debt-free and tuition-free colleges
  • But, would try to reform the college debt system to make universities more responsible and careful in lending
  • Not a very friendly stance toward the liberal arts, saying that financial aid should go to those studying for something that guarantees a job 

The Projected Impact on FUTURE Students & Travelers

What do these policies mean for students and travelers? Anything we say would be speculative at this point, but what’s more fun than speculating?

1. Trump could make travel harder for Americans.

The arrival of Trump on the political scene hasn’t only shaken up the U.S. Many Americans abroad find themselves on an “apology tour” of sorts. A policy of “America first” might sit well with some Americans, but in other countries Trump is not viewed favorably, which could make life harder for Americans venturing abroad for work, education, or any travel experience.

2. Trump getting rid of the J-1 visa would ruin a lot of students summer plans.

Tons of students come to the U.S. every summer to work and travel, and in countries like Ireland this is almost a rite of passage. Getting rid of this visa would curtail those plans and make coming to the States for cultural exchange or summer work much more difficult.

Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention
Clinton’s policies are a little more “status quo,” but that could always change.

3. Clinton’s debt-free college plan could make study abroad more accessible, if it works. 

Without the burden of debt, more students could feel free to study abroad. But, would that plan work? How much would it cost? There are a lot of questions about the implementation of debt-free college.

4. Prioritizing American workers will make it hard for others to come to the U.S. to work. 

Trump’s other plans to prioritize American workers, such as raising the wage on the H-1B visa and hiring Americans first, mean that international students wanting to stay in the U.S. and work will find that increasingly difficult.

In general, Trump’s plans will make coming to the United States more difficult for foreign workers, travelers, and students, and traveling abroad less comfortable for Americans.

The ramifications of Clinton’s plans are harder to speculate on. While she appears to be the “stick to the status quo” career politician, she has also changed her stance a few different times. In general, unless something changes, her positions on foreign policy and education shouldn’t make a huge difference for Americans or international students and travelers.

The Potential Impact on CURRENT Students & Travelers

The outcome of this election will likely have similar impact on current students and travelers as it will future students and travelers.

1. Potential immediate consequences.

International students currently in the U.S. will find Trump’s crackdown on J-1 and H-1B visas puts a damper on their summer plans, and might have them returning home earlier than anticipated. Clinton’s plan for debt-free college has current American college students hopeful that their post-graduate life won’t be marred by crushing student-debt, and for students who haven’t been abroad, what might have been financially impossible before seems more manageable.

2. Talk with people!

Both candidates have a range of supporters both abroad and at home; current American travelers and students should take advantage of the heightened political climate to engage in respectful conversations with foreigners about the ways our political policies affect their lives, sometimes directly, sometimes in a roundabout way.

Challenge yourself to discuss and understand; ask questions and most importantly, listen.

3. You gotta VOTE.

Wondering how to vote while living overseas? For U.S. students and travelers abroad, don’t think that just because you’re “out of sight, out of mind,” you don’t have a civic duty to rock your vote. You should arrange to participate in voting while living overseas (the sooner, the better). A participatory democracy only works if you actually participate in it; so, get your facts straight and your registration in order before November rolls around.

Here are some resources to help you vote while living overseas:

U.S. flag waving in the sky
We can only speculate what might be come November, but that shouldn’t discourage you from planning a meaningful experience abroad!

4. Don’t plan that return home quite yet. 

Safety is always a concern on the back of travelers’ minds, but a total embargo on travel and international exchange seems unlikely with either candidate. Though Trump’s policies might make travel more difficult (and conversations with international friends a little tense, regardless of the candidate), you probably won’t be kicked out of your host country based on the results of this election.

The Projected Impact on Non-Students & Non-Travelers

Whether you like it or not, or identify as a student or traveler (or not), we can speculate that these policies will have an impact on your everyday life. Globalization is here. Healthy relationships with international economies and political bodies are essential to maintaining our current standards of living. One example of foreign policy having an immediate impact on your life: limiting import goods can bring back jobs to the U.S., but it could also create stagnating economic growth, causing goods and services, infrastructure, and equipment to become more expensive (and your pocket money/disposable income to dwindle).

You may not realize it, but your summer vacation to <insert tourist hot spot> is made possible by many young international students seeking employment in the U.S. These jobs are often unwanted by U.S. nationals due to their seasonality and low-pay, a perfect fit for a foreign student looking for “adventure” and a taste of the American life with a side of cash.

International students bolster the U.S. economy significantly; any efforts to diminish accessibility to our higher education system for foreign students could present difficulties.

According to NAFSA,

...the 974,926 international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $30.5 billion and supported more than 373,000 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Again, this is all speculative. Another terrorist attack abroad or a new “pivot” in American foreign policy could change things for international travelers. But, in general, the world is safer than it has ever been, and it beckons you to come and see. Keep an eye on the news and plan your adventures accordingly!

This article written in conjunction with Erin Oppenheim.