The July 4th edition of the University of North Carolina student newspaper reports that, “A hundred university leaders signed a letter demanding a streamlined immigration process for international graduating students in fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
What is their motivation for moving beyond educating foreign students, to becoming immigration and job placement advocates on their behalf? It is implausible that the university presidents would give a straight answer to that question. However, to provide a context for considering the question, it should be noted that the universities actively recruit foreign students, based primarily on their contention that foreign students are good for the universities’ bottom lines.
The connection between competitive recruitment of international students and advocacy of more U.S. jobs for their foreign student graduates is obvious. For many of the foreign students, the prospect of earning a U.S. degree is that it will serve as an entry to a well paying U.S. job. If the prospect of finding a U.S. job diminishes, the attraction of enrollment in a U.S. university diminishes.
Leaving aside the fact that university leaders are prepared to sacrifice the future employment prospects of their American students in order to recruit more “profitable” international students, it is not clear that these foreign students are quite the financial windfall they are purported to be. The argument is often made that international students are an economic asset to public universities because they ‘pay their way’ without taxpayer subsidies.