Rather Than Innovate in U.S., Foreign Students Now Consider Leaving

Like many international students, Qiao Zhang had hoped to stay in the United States after receiving his master’s degree in quantitative finance from Rutgers Business School. Now, with the future of immigration policy so uncertain, he may go back to China. It’s something a lot of his fellow international students are considering, as well — and it would be a huge loss for American businesses. Zhang and his cohort are getting advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, ares with a significant shortage of U.S. workers.

Zhang came to the United States in 2015 after graduating from Beijing’s Central University of Finance and Economics with a bachelor’s degree in international finance. At Rutgers, he is studying the technologically advanced field of financial mergers and acquisitions. The program attracts international students because of the special visa associated with the field, one that allows students to work and study at the same time. Zhang, for example, has been able to work  in the United States with the National Securities Corporation, the United Nations, and Delta Economic Advisors.

But in the current political climate, he and his colleagues worry that this visa program — and their ability to remain in the United States after graduation — may be threatened.

“Already, it has become much harder to find jobs or even internships, because the future of our visas is so uncertain,” Zhang says. He is already seeing many of his fellow students return to their home countries after graduation.

By limiting the potential for qualified internationals to work in the United States, a lot of young talent is being lost to overseas.

According to a report by the American Competitiveness Alliance, employers in the United States are struggling to fill open information technology and STEM positions. A New American Economy study found that in 2016 more than 12 STEM jobs were posted online for every available, trained STEM worker, with the ratio far higher in many states. In four rural, Midwestern states, between 45 and 88 STEM jobs were posted online for every available worker. By 2020, the United States is expected to face a shortage of one million STEM professionals.

Zhang says that by limiting the potential for qualified internationals to work in the United States, “a lot of young talent is being lost to overseas,” something that will lead to “an extreme brain drain” that ultimately limits U. S. economic growth and technological competitiveness. In 2011 alone, 76 percent of patents awarded to the 10 most productive American research universities had at least one foreign-born inventor.  And from 1995 to 2005, immigrants helped found one quarter of new high-tech companies, which combined created more than 450,000 jobs.

Zhang would like to see immigration reform that entices highly skilled international graduates to stay in the United States. Other nations, he believes, should not benefit from individuals who were educated and trained in this one.

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