May 30, 2011

Why do we send our brightest foreign college grads back home?

College graduation is upon us once again, and thousands of foreign students are now wondering whether or not they will get a shot at the "American dream" they've heard so much about over the course of their college careers. It is the very peculiar policy of the US to invite some of the brightest young people in the world to come here and study at some of the finest universities in the world, and once they receive an excellent education, we tell them to go back home. Why should it be so difficult for a recent foreign grad to stay here and contribute to our economy? These are people who will go on to do great things, start new companies, and hire thousands of employees. The question, it seems to me is, shouldn't we have a national policy of encouraging them to stay here, so our nation's economy can enjoy the economic benefits they would create, rather than forcing them to go back home and promote that growth somewhere else?

One could consider this a threat: sending bright college graduates back to their country of origin will help those countries’ businesses to compete with American businesses. Alternatively, this could be interpreted as the strongest form of marketing a positive message about America to those foreign nations. Rather than our State Department involving themselves overtly in the politics of competing nations, foreign nationals are changed through their experience of living, studying, and working in America. They have perhaps become accustomed to some of the benefits of living in America (a few include: relatively low prices for food and fuel, commoditization of basic goods, equality for women, wide availability of the internet, and freedom of speech). These college graduates will wish to have a similar standard of living at home. We influence the rest of the world’s choices for food, luxury goods, television shows, and popular music… the list goes on and on. Surely the participants in the “Arab Summer” have many personal reasons for standing up to their oppressive regimes, but the importance of foreign-born emissaries of American culture upon their revolts should not be understated. And by educating people from around the globe in America, we’re likely to build better relations with their nations in the future, and perhaps gain access to those markets as they mature and their populations become more affluent.


We don't have a legal way to kidnap them and confine them to base.  And if they want to go home to start a family and a business,  we can't stop them.  And competition at home for them is much less fierce than here.  We can either make the market here less competitive (which will reduce our creativeness), or make competition in their native country more fierce.  We can send more of our own technical gurus over there to compete to increase the competitiveness in other countries (hence reduce our own resources).  Neither are good solutions.  Any suggestions ?

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