V V V V V V V V
4B Wednesday, September 18, 2013 // The Statement
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 // The Staternent B
hey are multinational, multiracial.
They are the GSIs leading your Fri-
day chemistry discussions, your
group members in your Design and
Manufacturing course and researchers scur-
rying around campus labs in white coats. Some
will be management consultants for Accenture.
Others will be computer engineers for Amazon,
Google and Facebook. Big names. Important
names. Still, some will be told to leave.
Chan Woo Kim, a senior studying Industrial
and Operations Engineering, knows this. As
a South Korean citizen who grew up in Hong
Kong, his job search will be harder than usual,
despite graduating with a degree that could nor-
mally land him a nice consulting gig.
"I want to work here," he said, seated in the
basement of Espresso Royale on South Uni-
versity Ave. He paused, then added, "But, ya'
know, that visa thing, that green card, citizen-
ship - it's a big obstacle."
As an international student, Kim is here on
an F-1 visa, which gives graduates with the
minimum of a bachelor's degree or a comparable
degree 12 months of Optional Practical Train-
ing, or OPT. For graduates in science, technol-
ogy, engineering or mathematics that period can
be extended to 29 months. To stay any longer
requires an H-1B visa - a program started in
1990 for temporary immigration to the United
States and is issued for three years but can be
extended to six years.
But H-1B visas are hard to come by. They're
capped at 65,000 per year with an additional
20,000 for holders of U.S. advanced degrees.
Institutions for research and higher educa-
tion are exempt from the annual H-1B visa cap,
according to Louise Baldwin, associate director
of the University's International Center. Which
means even if the 85,000 visas disappear, the
University, for example, could still hire foreign
employees on H-1Bvisas.A companylike Google,
however, could not, which makes securing a job
- and staying in the U.S. after getting a degree -
difficult for international students.
While the immigration reform bill that passed
in the Senate in June would increase the number
of H-lBs to as high as 180,000, it has yet to pass in
the House of Representatives.
A NATIONAL DEBATE AT THE UNIVERSITY
High-tech industries want foreign talent. Just
ask Mark Zuckerberg, whose political action
committee FWD.us was formed to lobby Con-
gress on immigration reform. Other members of
FWD.us's leadership include Reid Hoffman, co-
founder of LinkedIn, AdityaAgarwal, vice presi-
dent of engineering at Dropbox, and Bill Gates.
They want foreign talent with skills their com-
panies can use. This year, the national H-1B visa
cap was reached just five days after the applica-
tions went live. In 2012, it took 10 weeks.
So does it make sense to keep this current
limit inplace when demand is so clearlyoutstrip-
James Duderstadt, University president
emeritus and professor of science and engi-
neering, says no.
"We spend a tremendous amount (of resourc-
es) educating international students of extraor-
dinary talent," he said. "And then when they
finish their degrees, in many cases, they would
like to stay here and we tell them to go away,
which is crazy."
With 21 other corporate and academic
leaders from around the country, Duderstadt
helped author "Research Universities and the
Future of America," a series of 10 recommen-
dations to Congress on how to improve U.S.
The study proposes a streamlined process
to give green cards, which allow permanent
residence in the United States, to international
students graduating with master's degrees or
Ph.D.s, keeping them in the country and keeping
the U.S. globally competitive.
In 2009, 55.2 percent of doctorates given to
temporary visa holders were for engineering,
while 42.4 percent were for the physical sci-
ences, according to a national study. At the Uni-
versity from2009 to 2012, international students
accounted for more than 50 percent of total
enrollment in the College of Engineering Mas-
ter's and Ph.D. programs.
"We have universities capable of attracting
talent from around the world," Duderstadt said.
"We ought to make it easy for people we attract
to stay here, if they choose to do so."
Yet, some say international students are
admitted to universities at the expense of citi-
zens from minority groups, such as Latinos,
blacks and Native Americans, that are histori-
cally underrepresented in the science and engi-
neering fields. But Duderstadt, quick to give a
historical analogy, said the nation has always
relied on foreign talent for scientific innovation,
from European immigrants in the twentieth
century to Asian immigrants today.
It gets tricky when universities try to attract
world-class talent and serve local populations
simultaneously. Given the eroding state support for
public universities, you can't really do both, he said.
"The University of Michigan is kind of on a
knife edge right now," he said. "I don't think
we have the answer yet of how we meet both
the public purpose of public universities in this
country, which is to serve a very gross spectrum
of our population, and at the same time act as
a talent magnet to recruit United States talent
from around the world that kind of fuels our
economy and provides leadership."
Most foreign nationals pay full international
tuition, with few scholarships available to them.
This, too, jeopardizes a public institution's pur-
pose, especially if it purports to serve the "com-
mon man," Duderstadt said.
"Public universities are attracting a very large
number of wealthy international students that
come with the capacity to pay $50,000 a year for
their education," he said. "To the degree that the
common man is being redefined as someone that
can pay $50,000 a year, we're not meeting our
"It takes a huge toll in terms of finances,"
said Kim, the engineering senior, who pays full
tuition. "But the way I look at it, it's a good invest-
ment as long as I stay dedicated to my program."
But why is ita good investment for Kim, given
the tough visa requirements? According to Dud-
erstadt, the reason is simple: he's needed. Those
who need him - high-tech industries - are
pushing hard to get him to stay.
"We're just not producing enough of these
folks in the United States," Duderstadt said.
HIGH AND LOW (TECH) CLASSES
In scientific circles, there's a debate that goes
something like this: Businesses say they can't find
the talent they need in the domestic labor market.
preferable because they work for cheaper wages.
"What is happening is that the people who run
this industry are getting everything they want,
and the workers are being completely ignored,"
Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild,
told The Verge, a technology news publication, in
July. "American workers are being passed over in
favor of foreign workers who make far less money,
and politicians seem oblivious to our plight."
According to a study done in May at the
Brookings Institution, an independent research
think tank based in Washington, D.C., workers
on H-1Bvisas are paid more than their American
counterparts working the same jobs.
In 2010, there were 5,439 H-1B engineers
between the ages of26 and 30 whose wages aver-
aged $75,376. Their American counterparts aver-
aged $65,686. Likewise, for engineers ages 31-35,
there were 4,580 H-1B engineers whose wages
averaged $82,604 while their American counter-
parts averaged $78,195.
"For every prominent H-1B occupational cate-
gory, except life scientists and operations special-
ties managers, wage growth was stronger than
the national average since 2009,"the reportstates.
Though this appears to contradict the image
of H-1B workers as exploited and underpaid, the
report also says "about 25 percent" of H-1B visa
requests are for jobs that don't require more than
an associate's degree, meaning "the current U.S.
workforce could be trained to do these jobs at rela-
tively little cost" instead of relying on foreign labor.
And according to a February report from
Computerworld, the majority of H-1Bvisa recipi-
ents receive training in the U.S. and then return
to their home countries to continue working.
According to The Verge, "the largest employers
of H-1B workers aren't firms like Facebook and
Microsoft, they are actually outsourcing compa-
nies like InfoSys, Tata and Wiproc."
This indicates high-skilled international sci-
entists and engineers fill vital, otherwise vacant,
highly-paid positions, while the mid-level IT
worker is competing with someone willing to
take a slightly smaller paycheck.
"GIVING BACK TO THE
COMMUNITY I GREW UP IN"
Chandramouli Nagarajan, a senior study-
ing mechanical engineering, wants to go home,
one day. Born in India, he grew up in Ghana and
considers it home. A smile breaks across his face
as he describes the markets, beaches and warm
weather he was raised in. He talks about "giving
back to the community (he) grew up in" since
Ghana's economy is developing and growing -
he wants to be a part of that change, using the
skills he gained here.
But first he needs experience, American experi-
the harsh reality of finding an employer willing to
sponsor him for his visa is beginning to sink in.
"You see a hundred job postings online," he
said."Thenyouhitthat check mark saying'accept-
ing international' and it easily goes down to like 10
or even less than that. So that's pretty scary."
Not to mention the visa hunt.
"They have a quota on how many H-1 visas
they give out," he said. "And that disappears.
Like every year it fills up within a week and then
it disappears totally."
Kerri Boivin, director of the College of Engi-
neering's Career Center, said she frequently
encounters companies unwilling to hire inter-
national students. They could put all their
resources into hiring a student, only to have that
student's visa application rejected.
"Duringtheir recruiting in the fall, if they have
a domestic student and an international student
who have the same qualifications, they're mostly
going to go with the domestic student," she said.
Companies most likely to hire foreign
graduates, she said, are those that do not have
government contracts and do not require a
In "Is American Science in Decline?", Sociol-
ogy Prof. Yu Xie, one of the paper's co-authors,
argues that salaries for science careers have not
kept pace with highly-educated fields such as
law, medicine and business, thus lowering the
cost of doing science in the United States., while
also makingscientific careers less attractive.
Moreover, "science is globalized," Xie said,
and undergraduate science training in coun-
tries like India, China and South Korea is often
comparable to that in the United States While
it's known that elementary math and science
educations are lacking in the United States, it
still has the best graduate programs in these
fields, he said.
Given recent trends of foreign graduates
returning to their home countries to live and
work, he says it's necessary to make the United..
States an attractive place to live and work for
skilled graduates in STEM fields. Otherwise,
they'll leave, he said.
"H-lB problems? Pivot to Canada,' reads a
billboard in California, an attempt to attract
the brightest tech wizzes out of Silicon Valley
and into Canada, a country with more lax visa
In the past year, Boivin cited an increase of
companies hiring international students to work
at branches in their home countries.
Will Nagarajan work for a branch of Dow
Chemical or Exxon Mobil in Ghana or India?
For now, like most seniors, he's figuring it out,
with an added twist - he could be forced to leave
after spendingupwards of $200,000 for his edu-
cation. Lately, he's begun to think aboutcongres-
sional policy for the first time. He has to. After
all, it could seriously affect him.
"(Companies are) looking to hire very-W
advanced technical-skills people. But ... there
aren't necessarily Americans that have those
skills," he said. "I guess the policies were mostly
probably made to keep jobs for Americans. And, I
mean, I agree with them."
He paused, rubbing his hands together,
"But if there isn't really an American who can
fit the job then shouldn't the company be given
the free chance to bring in the international per-
son who can do the job?"
How vital are
By Jacob Axelrad