Give Preference To Students Graduating From U.S. Universities

Not to save the most incalculable for last, but the efficacy of this one, I think, is quite hard to determine. For one thing, it would be hard to determine how successful this program would be until the first round of new freshmen after the program changes graduate from U.S. universities.

First of all, universities have a lot of influence on the number of international students that enter their programs. They can reduce tuition, help students find more scholarships, and otherwise find savings for students that may be less willing to study in the United States due to a lesser chance of getting a visa to stay and work. That will offset the number of international students that could have been lost due to this preference.

Also, it should be clear that the number of international students and the number of Americans are related to one another. There are a limited number of spots on a roster, and when the number of international students goes down, the number of Americans is likely to go up. However, given the cost savings that can be found and the ability to market to international students in a way that will encourage them to take that additional risk, including offering degree programs that start in their home country for a couple years and then finish in the United States and earn a U.S. degree, among many other options, it’s clear that international students will likely keep coming.

The result is that international students will still make up the same percentage of the total student population. So what’s the problem with this? We’re emphasizing “Hire American” to get more American workers, but we’re not graduating more American workers. International competitiveness is worse because more of those international students are going back to their home countries or another country. Also, while unemployment may drop because there’s a greater chance Americans will find a job if you sway preference away from the few students who can’t get U.S. degrees even by going to a U.S. universities totally abroad or through some other option perhaps not even yet created, the number of jobs that need to be filled is still a goal that we won’t be able to meet.

In other words, the unemployment may go down, but the number of people actually able to do certain jobs, whether they find a job or not, is the same because we aren’t regulating the percentage of students that can be international students. For example, at my alma mater, George Washington, the Masters of Accountancy program’s international student population is majority Chinese. Whether they stay in the United States or not, there are very few Americans in the program. So, if the Chinese people leave, there aren’t more jobs Americans from that program can fill because Americans weren’t in the program to begin with. Also, the MBA program seems to have students from and send students to Cognizant quite often, with Tata a close second. Therefore, I think it’s better to look at the issue from an earlier point in time, before they even apply to be a student here, not just after graduation.

There’s something to be said about doing this in conjunction with doubling the minimum salary. It’s possible this could hold down the proportion of the student population who are international students because universities unfortunately focus so much of the admissions process on whether the student will get a job because it affects the universities’ ratings. If they’re not going to be able to get a job, then universities may not admit them. If H1B visas are only allowed if a company pays double what they pay now, then recruiting at universities that have a high international student ratio will go down. Companies will tell universities who they are looking for. If the cost of the H1B program per applicant isn’t reduced and the salary is increased, companies may actually start to “hire American.” If that affects admissions, then there may be a higher ratio of American students in the classroom.

Overall, I think this could work, but there’d have to be a close eye on how universities respond and regulations to guide them down a path that doesn’t completely wipe out what these changes to the H1B program are trying to induce. Doing this while also doubling the minimum salary, therefore, seems like the only way to know today whether this particular change will actually work in the future.

So, what do I think Trump will do?

I think he’ll remove per-country caps, allocate some percentage of visas to small business and startups, and also increase the minimum salary but by much less than double. Regarding the last one, it’s possible he’d keep it at double and provide huge tax breaks for companies that comply with his demands.

This may be okay. We may get more American jobs, but we really need to keep an eye on the universities. If not, it could score political points and be yet another policy determined to be a failure only after that determination can’t limit the powers of the people who would benefit from people thinking the program is so great. In other words, politicians can use this in a reelection campaign for at least one additional term. Trump could, too, but he can’t be reelected. He just can’t. We said that about his chances the first time, but at this point, c’mon.

So what should we do?

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