Press Release: More Than 150 University Presidents and Chancellors From All 50 States Sign Letter to the President and Congress Supporting Visa Reform

University presidents and chancellors with a combined student body of over 4 million students and a total endowment of over $240 billion support visa reform

Today, 165 chancellors and presidents of American universities sent a letter to President Barack Obama and to all members of Congress urging members of both parties to find a bipartisan solution to visa reform that would provide green cards for foreign-born students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The signatories included universities large and small, and from all 50 states, including leading research universities, such as Stanford University, Harvard University, and Cornell University; leading technical universities such as California Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the leaders of over a dozen state systems of higher education, including University of California System, University of Illinois System and University of Wisconsin System. A copy of the letter is available here.

The letter calls this issue “a critical threat to America’s preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity” citing a new report, Patent Pending that found that in 2011, foreign-born inventors were contributors on 76 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the United States. The presidents warn “there is a growing skill gap across America’s industries. One quarter of US science and engineering firms already report difficulty hiring, and the problem will only worsen.” Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs and in the coming years, STEM jobs are projected to grow roughly twice as fast as non-STEM jobs.

The letter was organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy as part of the coalition’s campaign to make STEM immigration reform a priority by repeatedly producing evidence of the value of STEM immigration reform and of broad bipartisan support from Americans. Partnership research has found that:

  • Foreign STEM grads drive U.S. innovation: 76% of patents from the top 10 patent-producing US universities (including MIT, Stanford, University of Illinois system, University of Texas System, etc.) in 2011 had a foreign born inventor. (Patent Pending, June 2012)
  • The U.S. is facing a shortage of STEM workers: By 2018, there will be more than 230,000 advanced degree STEM jobs that will not be filled even if every single new American STEM grad finds a job. (Not Coming to America, May 2012 )
  • The U.S. is losing out to countries that use immigration laws to recruit STEM workers: Canada offers visas to STEM workers even before they’ve earned their degrees and targets its recruitment efforts directly at foreign STEM workers in the US who are frustrated by obstacles to staying. UK and Australia offer ways for STEM grads to stay after graduation so they can find employment. (Not Coming to America, May 2012)
  • More than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. These include many of America’s greatest brands – Apple, Google, AT&T, Budweiser, Colgate, eBay, General Electric and McDonald’s just to name a few– and the newest leading companies are also more likely to have an immigrant founder. (The New American Fortune 500, June 2011)

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…