Importing high-tech workers

By | September 20, 2012

Congress must reform immigration laws that send top STEM graduates to China – CSMonitor.com. 2012 September 10 print edition

Rather than focusing on keeping foreign students of US STEM programs in the US post-graduation, I think that we should focus on enabling more US students to graduate from both US and foreign STEM programs and to then find meaningful work which leverages that education in the US.  And I think that it’s a positive to have US-educated STEM graduates returning to their home countries – particularly if those STEM programs have provided a humanistic education around the STEM courses.

Back to school: From rural Africa to the Ivy League – CSMonitor.com, 2012 September 17 print edition

In this article Scott Baldauf interviews those associated with a US government funded program (United States Achievers Program, USAP) to enable underserved, promising students in Africa to attend (US) Ivy League universities.  The purpose of this program (in contrast to the sentiments expressed in the opinion column in the previous week’s edition) is to “help people to go back to serve their countries”.  The interviewees observe that higher education is an important sector of the US economy (not including its importance in supplying trained employees to other sectors).  The implicit conclusion is that in order for the US to maintain its competitive advantage it needs to maintain the quality of incoming and outgoing students – the supply chain.

I would like further clarification on the stated economic benefit – especially in the context of the previous week’s opinion column.  The article states “the $12 million spent for international scholarships through USAP’s parent organization, Education USA, brings in some $21 billion to the US economy each year, generating new business ideas, innovations, and economic activity”.  To what extent is that return on investment (ROI) due to graduates staying in the US?  Or is the return generated by activities initiated during the student years?  Or is the ROI from US-based revenue associated with repatriated graduates?

I am interested in understanding how USAP apparently has a much higher matriculation rate than programs which enable underserved US students to go to college – as documented in the 2012 American RadioWorks documentary Grit, Luck and Money: Preparing Kids for College and Getting Them Through.

Grit, Luck and Money: Preparing Kids for College and Getting Them Through – American RadioWorks documentary airing 2012 September 15 on KQED

The lead-in is very telling: “Only 9 percent of America’s poorest kids get a bachelor’s degree by the time they’re 24. One problem is bad education in high school.”.  Both the Houston, Texas YES Prep school profiled in this documentary and USAP help economically disadvantage high school students navigate the US college admissions and financial aid processes to become first-generation college students, but the difference in the outcomes have been quite different.


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