According to a new report from the Institute for International Education, nearly 900,000 foreign students are studying in U.S. college or university undergraduate programs, up 8 percent from last year. That’s a new record.
In fact, the number of international students studying in the U.S. has increased by 72 percent since 2000.
Of the foreign students studying in the U.S. last year, more than 274,000 were Chinese, a 16.5 percent increase from the previous year.
At first glance, this can be interpreted as an endorsement of the superiority of the American college and university system.
But dig deeper and you’ll find that higher education entities show preference to foreign students because they aren’t dependent on financial aid, and in many cases, pay more tuition and fees than American students do.
The result is that international students contributed about $27 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013. That’s hard to resist. But it also mortgages the nation’s ability to create and innovate, since most of these students return to their own country, taking with them the knowledge gained here.
Worse, they apply that knowledge in places like China, Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, where they are helping to boost those nations’ research and development and economies. This puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.
Meanwhile, back home, the end result of showing preference to foreign students, according to a National Institutes of Health report, is that the best and brightest American students are being dissuaded from entering careers in science and research. They don’t feel they can compete on a level playing field with the large number of foreign postdoctoral researchers, which is creating a glut of lab scientists.
Bloomberg reported that the Government Accountability Office has attributed this glut to an oversupply of foreign postgraduate doctors. In fact, about 54 percent of these postgraduate doctors are foreign.
And it’s not just in the pure science area. In 2012, California State University, East Bay, a public institution just south of Oakland, directed its master’s degree programs to admit only non-California students, including foreign students. Even before this edict, international students made up 90 percent of its computer science master’s program, according to Bloomberg.
So, are American students returning the favor by studying abroad? Fewer than 300,000 American students were enrolled in foreign colleges or universities. That’s about a 2 percent increase from the previous year.
We can’t allow foreign students to gain an advantage over U.S, students. One of the outcomes of the rise in foreign students is that they are shutting U.S. students out of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, where there are many available jobs.
The result is that roughly 8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 are unemployed, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
In addition, 16.8 percent of new grads are “underemployed,” meaning they’re either jobless and hunting for work, working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job or working in a job significantly below their skill set.
I’m a firm believer in free trade with other nations, but when the U.S. puts itself at a competitive disadvantage by favoring foreign students, it’s no different than allowing other countries to put prohibitively high tariffs on U.S. goods.
It’s not always about products anymore; now it’s about our own citizens and creating good-paying American jobs. If America is to remain the greatest nation on earth, we need to be graduating the most talented students on earth who will stay here and contribute to our tradition of innovation and economic growth.
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