Global Talent Starts with Foreign Students
By James E. Root
Los Angeles, CA
Five years after
the terrorist attacks of 9/11, US colleges and universities
are fighting to reverse what some consider an alarming
decline in foreign student enrollment. Despite a
tightening of visa regulations in the months immediately
following the attacks, foreign student enrollment
actually increased in 2001, in part because of students
who already had applied or enrolled, but since then
numbers have steadily declined.
The United States has always remained open to talented
people from around the world in order to stay competitive
and retain an edge in technology, research and education.
However, the status of the US as the preferred destination
for foreign students and scholars has declined in
recent years. As global competition for professionals
and high-tech workers, doctors and nurses, and university
students and researchers increases, it’s important
for the US to recognize its historical openness
to foreign students.
Since American students are not flocking to engineering,
foreign students account for over 63 percent of
the engineering master's and doctorates at Texas'
largest schools. That is while foreign enrollment
has fallen because students have a tough time getting
visas to study in post-9-11 America, it’s
in America ’s national interest to remain
open to foreign students in order to attract the
best and the brightest.
By developing a strategy to attract and retain skilled
and educated students and workers from around the
world, the US can turn its existing strengths into
long-term competitive advantages, building upon
its international reputation for superb education
and cutting-edge research.
Tightened visa procedures and entry conditions for
international students, which were implemented in
the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, have
affected the demand for student visas. The number
of F-l student-visa applications submitted each
year dropped by nearly 100,000 between Fiscal Year
(FY) 2001 and FY 2004: particularly among students
from Middle Eastern, North African, and some Southeast
Asian countries. The decline in total foreign student
enrollment in 2003/04 was the first in 30 years,
while the decline in graduate student enrollment
in 2004/05 was the first in 9 years. Beginning in
2002/03 (the first academic year after the terrorist
attacks of September 11,2001) the annual growth
rate of total enrollments by foreign students in
US colleges and universities fell significantly.
Factors cited most often by foreign students who
chose to go to countries other than the US include
long visa delays and high tuition fees.
Australia, Canada, South Korea, and many European
countries have been actively recruiting foreign
talent in order to alleviate labor shortages in
skill-intensive sectors of their economies, stimulate
research and development, and increase their access
to foreign markets. To attract students from abroad,
these nations offer lower-cost educational programs
and easier immigration paths.
While foreign students' share of the total student
population barely changed in the United States between
1998 and 2003, it increased by nearly half in Australia
, more than tripled in New Zealand , and almost
doubled in Sweden .
China and India together account for 25 percent
of all foreign students and about 28 percent of
all international scholars in the US. However, foreign
student enrollment is still down.
There is a perception abroad that it will be very
difficult to get a visa, or if you're a male between
the ages of 14 and 45, that it will be very hard.
However, there may be signs of a slow turnaround.
A recent survey finds an eight percent increase
in the number of new foreign students coming to
the U.S this school year (figures released by Institute
of International Education ); another sign of turnaround
is the slow increase in student visas. Some schools
are sending graduate school officials outside the
US for recruiting for the first time in 4 or 5 years
America is experiencing a profound immigration crisis,
but it is not about the 11 million illegal immigrants
currently being debated in the press. The real crisis
is that the US is closing its doors to immigrants
with degrees in science, math and engineering -
the best and brightest from around the world who
flock to the country for its educational and employment
opportunities. These foreign-born workers are critically
important to maintaining America ’s technological
(James E. Root, Principal Attorney for Root Law
Group, has dedicated his entire legal career to
fighting for and protecting the rights of US immigrants
and their US employers. Phone: 888- Root-Law (888-766-8529).