A steadily growing pipeline of cash for U.S. colleges and universities from international students was abruptly cut off with the pandemic, and higher education institutions are now looking to the White House to shore up a besieged visa process to bring those lucrative students back, reported U.S. news website Politico.

Students from abroad often pay the full sticker price on tuition and fees, making them desirable to admit. But when the pandemic closed borders, canceled flights and shuttered buildings, that cash flow halted. Education groups are looking at U.S. President Joe Biden to restore it.

American colleges and universities lost billions of dollars when the pandemic scattered their students and turned off new applicants. Now, “their fall semesters are still uncertain as they don’t know yet how much international student enrollment they can get amid a COVID-rattled U.S. bureaucracy,” said the report.

“When you add in other factors of community development, they’re innovators and creators, it could be quite a disaster long term if they can’t get in,” Elizabeth Goss, a Boston-based immigration attorney who specializes in obtaining student visas, was quoted as saying.

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Harvard University in Cambridge of Massachusetts (Photo by Fan Lin/Xinhua)

Nearly 1.1 million students from abroad attended college in the United States in the 2019-2020 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education, an organization that tracks their enrollment.

“While education groups say it’s too soon to predict what fall enrollment will look like, last fall’s 43 percent plunge in new international student enrollment has advocates for those students concerned about the coming semester,” said the report.

A recent Moody’s analysis stated that last year’s decline in international students and the bureaucratic strain of COVID-19 are likely to hurt university finances for “several years.” Enrollment will likely rebound for the fall, but “be slowed by travel restrictions, lingering sourness from the Trump administration’s immigration policies and increased competition from other countries.”

Biden has eased Trump-era travel bans and will allow students on visas to study online if campuses close for COVID-19 outbreaks, but higher education advocates are urging him to loosen restrictions around student visas to ease the process of getting to the United States.

NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, the world’s largest non-profit international education organisation, has also asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to prioritize student and scholar visa processing, extend temporary in-person visa interview waiver eligibility and use videoconferencing for required visa interviews, according to the report