Brian K. Sullivan, Bloomberg
Boston: U.S. graduate schools received 8% more applications from abroad for the coming year, a slowing growth rate that raises concerns the system won’t produce enough skilled workers to compete globally.
Competition from colleges and universities in other countries probably accounts for part of the slowdown, according to survey results released today by the Washington-based Council of Graduate Schools. The number of applications increased 12% for the current academic year from 2005-06.
The slump makes it more difficult for U.S. higher education to compensate for declines after the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks prompted the federal government to tighten visa restrictions. Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates last month told Congress that the U.S. should double the number of science, technology and math graduates by 2015 and end limits on visas for skilled foreign workers.
“Everyone is in the game, where only America was in the past,” council President Debra W. Stewart said in a telephone interview. “We now have competition that we never had before.”
Applications from India slowed particularly. The number of prospective students seeking admission to U.S. graduate schools from there rose 6% after an increase last year of 26%. China and India usually send the most graduate students to the U.S. each year, the council said in a statement.
The number of applicants for engineering and physical sciences programmes grew 8% compared with 19% and 15%, respectively, for the current academic year.
The gain in total applications for next academic year still exceeds the 5% decline for the same period starting in 2005 and 28% for 2004, the council said. Researchers sent questionnaires to the group’s 468 members, which include Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and received responses from 145.
Part of the reason for the growth in new applications is that the visa application process has improved and schools have streamlined recruiting from abroad, Stewart said.
“America’s strength has been we have been able to attract the smartest talent from around the world, many of whom have chosen to stay in the United States,” said Stewart, 63.
Rich Templeton, chief executive officer of Texas Instruments Inc., said last month that his company supports granting a “green card” that would allow permanent residency in the U.S. to foreign students who earn a graduate science degree at a U.S. university.
He and other industry representatives repeated calls for Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas granted for workers from abroad. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 150,000 applications by 2 April. The number of visas that can be issued is limited to 65,000.
Students coming to the U.S. get F-1 visas, and the number of applications for those fell almost 10% from 2001 to 2005, according to the State Department. The number of such visas granted each year remains about 20,000 fewer than before 2001, the council said, citing data from Education Sector, a research group based in Washington.