International STEM students once flocked to American graduate schools, but they are increasingly looking elsewhere for their education. International applicants to US grad schools grew by only 1 percent this year, the smallest gain in eight years. The WSJ reports:
Applications from Chinese citizens to U.S. graduate schools declined 5% for the coming academic year amid worries about unstable funding for science programs and tight immigration policies.The results raise an alarm for schools, which have relied on demand from international students—particularly those from China—to offset lackluster interest among U.S. citizens in some programs. Chinese students comprised roughly one-third of all international graduate students in 2011.
Chinese and other international students are instead turning to Canadian and Australian schools, due in large part to the efforts of both countries to loosen restrictions on immigration. Foreign students who graduate from an Australian university are now permitted to obtain a two-year work visa; those who complete a doctorate are allowed four years. In Canada, foreign graduates and their partners can apply for work permits for up to three years and can also get on a track to establish permanent residence. Canada has also invested $10 million to attract international students over the past two years; that’s money well spent: Canada’s Minister of International Trade Edward Fast says international students contributed more than $8 billion to Canada’s economy last year.The United States is quickly falling behind its Anglosphere peers when it comes to efforts to attract skilled immigration. This year, the US set a cap of 85,000 for foreign work visas, 20,000 of which were reserved for students with master’s degrees from U.S. universities. The cap, meant to cover the entire year, was reached in less than a week.This is a big deal. High-skilled immigrants boost the economy and help create jobs for native-born Americans. The US has long been the place where the world’s best and brightest come to realize their full potential. We should be doing whatever we can to make sure America retains that status in the years to come. We hope Congress is listening as it begins discussions on immigration reform.