For my last Civic Issues post, I entwined my topic of choice, Education, with another CI topic – that time, gender. I think it is important as well as fascinating to explore how the different CI topics relate to each other, so this week I delved into what diversity in education looks like, specifically the issue (or non-issue) of foreign students in higher education. The presence of these students are harmless, if not beneficial, to many; however, others argue that foreign students’ ability to take American spots in college (and later, possibly the work force) should be monitored or capped. With all our nation’s talk about immigration reform, I found the system of foreign students’ integration into American society enlightening as well as question-raising.
First off, the facts, because most are probably unaware of the process of the roughly 760,000 foreigner‘s enrollment in U.S. universities, such as our own. Students must obtain a visa – as a means of permission, almost – in order to study here. However, this specific document (an F-1 visa) holds implications that the students will return to their home countries after their period of study, and they actually must try to prove they will return as a means of acquiring the ticket to U.S. education. However, it is indeed possible for the graduating student to upgrade his/her F-1 to a temporary work visa that is valid for up to 12 additional months. Still, many students hope to score the H-1B – the work visa. Herein lies the controversy, for while some are unhappy with foreigners scooping up the already-scarce American jobs, others argue that bright, foreign students are necessary to America staying ahead (echoing the Option 1 of the in-class Education Deliberation, eh?). President Obama himself has stated, in regards to foreign students becoming American workers, that “In the global marketplace, we need all the talent we cant attract… we don’t want the next Intel or the next Google to be created in China or India. We want these companies and jobs to take root here.” Many others share this sentiment, stressing that a large proportion of our country’s companies, innovations, and research discoveries – our country’s success, ultimately – was due to the talent of foreigners on American soil.
Of course, foreigners in the work force often begin as students of the American higher education system, and many colleges and universities share their diversity statistics with pride. Institutions of higher education may market themselves on the basis of providing prospective students with a more holistic, global education and student body that only their international students provide – a facet that is becoming increasingly desirable as our society itself continues to undergo globalization. In my opinion, this too is valid, for I have often heard friends share how cool it was to hear the perspective of the foreign student in their class who can personally relate to class material in a way that Americans can’t. In class, you and I also are learning the value of diversity of experience and opinion when deliberating certain issues. However, while international students may be desired for these admirable reasons, there is something else at work here too: money. Foreign students contribute $21 billion a year to the national economy, and most importantly, they contribute full tuitions. No financial aid, no scholarships, no in-state tuition. Colleges and universities are not required to give them anything. Actually, some colleges actually charge them additionally fees, such as Purdue University’s $1000-$2000 fee. So then, foreigners become an economic advantage, for what exactly makes an American student worth thousands – or tens of thousands, even – of dollars? Beyond filling quotas, essentially nothing.
While there are many sides to the situation of foreign students at American institutions, some may beg the (stasis) question of Definition: is this a problem, even? Is it so bad that in an increasingly global society, we are accepting global students – especially when we have no problem with studying abroad ourselves? What do you think – does the benefit outweigh the cost of denied entrance, either in college or the work force, of Americans?