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September 25, 2006

Competing for Global Talent: The Race Begins with Foreign Students

To retain its competitive edge in global knowledge production and its leadership in research and education, the United States must remain open to talented people from around the world. The question is, as global competition intensifies for professionals and high-tech workers, doctors and nurses, and university students and researchers, will the United States remain in the forefront in attracting the best and the brightest?

According to a recent study published by the Immigration Policy Center, the answer right now is no. In the study, researcher Jeanne Batalova of the Migration Policy Institute found that "the status of the United States as the preferred destination for foreign students and scholars faces serious challenges," challenges exacerbated by the attacks on September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. For instance, the study found that "[b]eginning in 2002/03 (the first academic year after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) the annual growth rate of total and graduate-level enrollments by foreign students in U.S. colleges and universities fell significantly." Moreover, "[t]he decline in total foreign student enrollment in 2003/04 was the first in 30 years, while the decline in foreign graduate student enrollment in 2004/05 was the first in 9 years." Much of this, according to the report, can be attributed to the fact that "[t]ightened visa procedures and entry conditions for international students, which were implemented in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, have dampened the demand for student visas." Not surprisingly, this is particularly evident for students from Middle Eastern, North African, and certain Southeast Asian countries.

Complicating matters for the United States is undeniable evidence that other countries are picking up the slack. As the percentage of foreign students in the total student population continues to fall in the United States, it has doubled, and even tripled in other countries. And while many lawmakers in the United States seem slow to grasp the fundamental importance of attracting and retaining foreign students in order to increase our sagging global economic competiveness, officials in other 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," even changing and adapting their laws in order to facilitate this.

Visit the IPC online to read the full report, including the problems that will result if the United States maintains the status quo, and the author's recommendations for fixing this growing crisis.


Posted by VisaLawyer at September 25, 2006 08:30 AM


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