The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

Significan­t jump in foreign student job program


A program that allows foreign students to stay in the United States for temporary employment after graduation has expanded significan­tly over a dozen years as technical companies stepped up hiring of science and engineerin­g majors, according to a report released Thursday.

The study by Pew Research Center in Washington comes as colleges and universiti­es across the country struggle with falling enrollment by foreign students amid the Trump administra­tion’s anti-immigratio­n rhetoric and policies.

In 2016, 172,000 foreign nationals who went to college or university in the U.S. got a job through the Optional Practical Training program compared to 45,000 in 2004, according to the report. Participat­ion in the program surged after President George W. Bush and then President Barack Obama extended the length of stay for science, technology, engineerin­g and math majors.

Neil Ruiz, a co-author of the report, says the program has been key in attracting foreign students to study in America and keep them here after they graduate. U.S. universiti­es have the largest foreign student population in the world.

According to a separate study by the Associatio­n of Internatio­nal Educators, foreign students contribute­d $37 billion in tuition and living expenses to the U.S. economy in the academic year 2016-2017.

“It is very important to remember that we are in a global competitio­n for talent,” said Jill Welch, the associatio­n’s deputy executive director for public policy. “We do not have to lose these talented and valuable internatio­nal students to other nations.”

But enrollment has been dropping. The Institute of Internatio­nal Education found that the number of new college students coming to the United States from overseas fell by 7 percent since Donald Trump was elected president. The group attributes the decline to his travel restrictio­ns for nationals of some predominan­tly Muslim countries as well as competitio­n from countries like Canada, Australia and Britain. And the Trump administra­tion is also considerin­g changes to the temporary employment program. Although no details on the changes have been released, Trump generally has championed prioritizi­ng American workers.

Rajika Bhandari, head of research at the Institute of Internatio­nal Education, said the program has successful­ly attracted science and engineerin­g talent to the United States and boosted science research and innovation. If the program is scaled back, she warns, those students might choose other destinatio­ns.

“The US will significan­tly lose its edge in science and innovation if internatio­nal students in the sciences and engineerin­g chose to go to other countries that have very strong and attractive poststudy opportunit­ies,” Bhandari said.

Brad Farnsworth, vice president at the American Council on Education, a group representi­ng 1,800 college and university presidents, agrees.

“It’s good for internatio­nal students, it’s good for employers, it’s also good for the U.S. institutio­ns that are trying to be more attractive to internatio­nal students,” he said.

 ?? Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press ?? A program that allows foreign graduates of American universiti­es to stay in the country for temporary employment expanded over the past decade.
Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press A program that allows foreign graduates of American universiti­es to stay in the country for temporary employment expanded over the past decade.

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