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DHS Best-and-Brightest STEM Program Under Fire 108

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the degree-mill-poaching dept.
theodp writes "In mid-May, the Department of Homeland Security quietly expanded a program that allows foreign science, technology, engineering and math grads to work in the U.S. for 29 months without a work visa. 'Attracting the best and brightest international talent to our colleges and universities and enabling them to contribute to their professional growth is an important part of our nation's economic, scientific and technological competitiveness,' explained DHS Chief Janet Napolitano. But last week, Senator Chuck Grassley called on the GAO to 'fully investigate' the student visa program, citing reports of abuse and other concerns in his letter. Now, Computerworld reports that the DHS STEM Visa Extension Program continues to be dominated by Stratford University and the University of Bridgeport (as it was in 2010), prompting some tongues to wag. It is 'obvious to any reasonable person that the schools producing most of the OPT students are not prestigious research universities,' quipped policy analyst Daniel Costa, 'which means that many of the OPT students across the country are not in fact the "best and brightest."' While conceding that top students can come from lesser-known schools, 'those will be the exception to the rule,' argued Costa, who suggested the government should include performance metrics in the OPT program, such as grades and university rankings."
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DHS Best-and-Brightest STEM Program Under Fire

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  • Oh, DHS, is there anything you can't screw up?

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:22AM (#40218013)

    They need a cheap work force.

    Granted young people from prestigious universities might be helpful doing research at US universities. But for inexperienced people to help the US companies, they need enough of them to depress wages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gr8Apes (679165)
      Sadly, the linked articles support this:

      For instance, OPT employers aren't subject to the same rules governing H-1B workers, who must be paid the prevailing wage.

      The U.S. has approved about 35,274 OPT extensions and denied only 613 since the program was started.

  • by sycodon (149926) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:26AM (#40218039)

    Public Universities should not be accepting foreign students over U.S. students. They may say they want the "prestige" of having a diverse student body or say that they have some hot shot kid from one of the Stan countries, but no matter. They were created for and their job is to provide a higher education for the American public. Especially since they are largely financed by U.S. Taxpayers.

    Private Universities? As long as they are let in under the rules and not given precedence over those who have been in line, fine, go ahead.

    It seems that most of the institutions of higher learning have forgotten what their purpose is and instead strive to have the most bling... people or programs or things.

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:31AM (#40218063)

      I went to a state school and foreign students were split roughly into three equal-sized groups. 1) The ones who avoided anyone else not from their part of the world, thus not helping the school's cultural diversity 2) The ones who "Americanized" a little too hard and spent most of them time drunk, arrested or deported and 3) The ones who actually helped the goal of spreading diversity by experiencing American cultural while still introducing others to their own. Of course, I'd take all of them over the mobs of inner city kids they shipped up from NYC to go to school for free who inevitably flunked out after the second semester.

      • When I was in university, the 1) groups all self-segregated in the lecture hall. A quick glance over collected students and you could see the pockets of ethnicity.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Foreign students pay full out of state tuition which helps keep the public universities afloat financially. If that wasn't the case then the tuition would rise for all students, which would lead to only rich students getting in. There is a balance to be had between too many foreign students and higher in-state tuition. Lets not get all xenophobic and lose our ability to reason.

      • U.S. out of state students pay out of state tuition. There are more U.S. out of state students than foreign students.

        Nice try troll.
        • U.S. out of state students pay out of state tuition. There are more U.S. out of state students than foreign students. Nice try troll.

          Not really. Many of them become state citizens after the first year, ergo paying in-state tuition. Granted that the OP is exaggerating foreign students' contribution to keeping tuition low. BUT so are you. At the risk of bringing up a cliche, the truth is in the middle.

    • by sycodon (149926)

      OK, while the sentiment of my post is still true. It's off topic because I have not had my coffee and totally fucked up.

      Please mod me off topic.

      • Not really off topic, because access to university is tied in with the DHS claims that there are shortages of US workers with these skills.
      • by Sangui5 (12317) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @09:24AM (#40218495)

        It isn't that unreasonable to be upset at what the article is about; there are abuses of the OPT visa, and those abuses ought be fixed.

        At the same time, it is important to understand what letting foreign students and giving them a shot at employment does. A lot of the US's economic lead comes from the fact that we basically imported the best of Europe's population just prior to and after WWII. The current programs extend this: essentially steal the best and most talented people from around the world by providing them with good opportunities.

        I did my graduate work at a large & relatively prestigious state school; I was the only US citizen in my research group. Everyone else was an immigrant. Except for one person who got lucky and won the green card lottery (literally a lottery) while still a student, every single one of them used the OPT visa at some point. They've all gone on to make valuable contributions to the US, as research scientists, faculty, and founders of a start up. The US is better off for them immigrating, and becoming permanent residents.

        So you should be angry when there are abuses of these sorts of visa programs. If there's too much abuse, these programs will be cut back, or even cancelled, and we'll stop getting the benefit of stealing the world's most talented people.

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      They were created for and their job is to provide a higher education for the American public.

      And considering how retarded the majority of American public is now, in a decade those universities would teach alphabet if not for foreigners.

    • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @09:31AM (#40218545) Homepage

      Public Universities should not be accepting foreign students over U.S. students. They may say they want the "prestige" of having a diverse student body or say that they have some hot shot kid from one of the Stan countries, but no matter. They were created for and their job is to provide a higher education for the American public. Especially since they are largely financed by U.S. Taxpayers.

      Private Universities? As long as they are let in under the rules and not given precedence over those who have been in line, fine, go ahead.

      It seems that most of the institutions of higher learning have forgotten what their purpose is and instead strive to have the most bling... people or programs or things.

      Let me stop you right there with three points.

      1. No one is saying that US students are passed over foreign ones. Do you have proof that this is what is happening?

      2. The truth of the matter is that US students are not going in droves into STEM fields at the 4-year level, let alone the grad level. This is the truth. Suck on it and deal with it. The US STEM intelligentsia is disproportionally composed of foreign-born nationals. US students do not get passed over. They simply chose to study for Marketing or Creative Writing.

      3. Why not use tax payers to get the best and brightest from abroad to study here and become US nationals? That's better use of of taxpayers money (my money, your money) than funding yet another graduate in Creative Writing burdened by a $100K loan.

      It was a foreign-born citizen who created USB, and another one who helped create google. And many more created a lot more shit while the rest of us were content studying for useless degrees, while complaining why US students get passed over (which is not true.)

      A little bit more perspective and a little less of this stupid faux victim look-at-me syndrome is what you need.

      • by will_die (586523)
        For the US students being passed over yes it has been happening and increasing the last 2-3 years.
        It is really bad in California where you have been getting some news about it, even heard about it where I live in Europe.
        The reason is that that foreign students pay the full tuition costs and since states have been cutting funding the foreign students are cash cows.
        You could make the case that with the money they are paying they are not taking slots that US students would of had because the slots would not
    • Public Universities should not be accepting foreign students over U.S. students.

      Foreign students usually pay full tutition. So by admitting more foreign students, the universities can afford to admit more U.S. students, who usually have much of their tuition subsidized by the taxpayers. The limiting factor is money, not the number of chairs currently in the classrooms.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        The limiting factor is money. They can fund only so many seats in the classroom. Those seats attract asses, it's a natural law, of course. By getting a higher proportion of foreign students, they make more money to fill those chairs rather than lose it to scholarships. And foreign students don't just whip out their checkbooks, their government does. And their government usually wants them to come home after getting their degree.

        Let's face it, American higher education is all about the money.
  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:27AM (#40218047)

    A major expansion of the program occurred in 2008 under Bush and is now expanded again by Obama. Over 400000 OPT Visas from 2006-2010, so this is the same scale at H1B. The DHS press release has the usual, if questionable, justification: this is only for the best of the best of the best and there are no US workers with these skills.

    Lies and quiet scheming have replaced honest discussion with US citizens.

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      Lies and quiet scheming have replaced honest discussion with US citizens.

      How can you replace something that never existed?

    • There is effectively only one political party in the US now.

    • by HanzoSpam (713251)

      I do find it peculiar that in a nation that already has 320 million people in it, none of them qualify as the "best and the brightest".

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Assume for the sake of argument that nobody in the US really does have these skills. Wouldn't the best solution be to fix that problem, rather than just importing in people with those skills?

      Of course, what they really mean is that nobody willing to work for just above minimum wage has those skills. And if they succeed in filling positions at those wages the supply will drop even lower.

      This is like typical corporate thinking - hire for your immediate needs, and when your needs change fire your existing em

  • by gweihir (88907) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:31AM (#40218065)

    Let me rephrase that: "Why would anyone qualified be interested in that?". Sure, 29 months sounds long, but if you have to leave at the end, it is basically wasted time. The "best and brightest" do typically not fall for that kind of scam. In any sane country, you can extend your stay and, after a time, apply for citizenship with good probability of getting it.

    • by tyleroar (614054)
      Why would they have to leave after 29 months? Surely they could get a work visa after 29 months of study at a prestigious university.
    • by Xacid (560407)

      From what I gather after that period of time you should have actually applied for and received your student visa.

    • by jpapon (1877296)

      "Why would anyone qualified be interested in that?". Sure, 29 months sounds long, but if you have to leave at the end, it is basically wasted time.

      It buys you time to get in on three more visa lotteries, and it also gives you 29 months to try to find an employer that can get you an H-1B.

    • by Sangui5 (12317)

      Lots of people who really are 'the best and brightest" take OPT; when used correctly it is a "bridge" visa to something more permanent. E.g. a student graduates, takes 90 days (or less) to find a job, starts at an employer under OPT, the employer starts the H-1B application process, and within 6-9 months the students qualifies for H-1B. This is especially useful for people who graduate after the current year's H-1B allotment has run out; they can't possibly successfully apply until the next year, so the

      • I've seen OPT used properly and effectively for very talented foreign students. I've been around very good universities and I can confirm OPT is critical at keeping top-tier foreign students here in the US. The most common cases are (a) the summer grad school gap when changing schools and (b) a gap between graduation and an employment visa. The former may seem trivial, but it can allow a student to finish up a research project at University A before moving on to University B (e.g., undergrad to grad, MS to
    • Also, the 'prestigious research universities' are probably sitting back waiting for the 'best and brightest' to apply, while Stratford and Bridgeport probably have people actively trying to promote and entice students to come and avail of the opportunity.

  • than your average immigrant.

  • Who Benefits? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sociocapitalist (2471722) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:47AM (#40218173)

    American companies complaining they can't hire resources in these fields (without mentioning that they want to pay jack shit) perhaps?

    Strikes me as a bit of an H1B dodge...

  • >> These reforms reflect the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to promote policies that embrace talented students from other countries ...while ensuring talented students and workers in the United States continue to get screwed.

    How much longer under November again?

    • Unfortunately, this started under the Bush Administration, so I'm pretty sure that screwing talented students and workers in the United States is one of the things that both parties can agree on.

  • Plain Wrong! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There is a lot of false on this thread. An OPT is crucial for the best and the brightest. A F-1 student is not granted the intent to immigrate. They are considered as visitors. Even during OPT they are F-1 students who are supposed to return home after the OPT. OPT status lets the students move jobs and companies don't have to pay through their nose to get someone who is working elsewhere working on an OPT.

    A H1-b on the other hand has a dual intent. Every single time an employee leaves a company and switch

    • So on the whole the entire immigration mess is political and it's xenophobic. The reality for the people on the visa is they are second class slave labor waiting for a permanent residence.

      Don't you think US employers prefer this slave labor? If so, then it's hardly "xenophobic" to realize that US workers are being replaced by such "slave labor" - your own words.

      America is a country of immigrants the last time I checked

      Visa workers are not "immigrants" they are temporary labor. An immigrant is somebody who

      • by 0ld_d0g (923931)

        These visa workers are far from the "best and brightest" they are ordinary workers, taking ordinary jobs

        I personally know several people who graduated with me and who now work at big tech firms like IBM/Google/Oracle/Apple/Facebook on a work visa and they are definitely not ordinary - which is subjective anyway. Importantly - not only do they get paid the same as US citizens, but they are more expensive to hire because of the legal fees involved in their hiring. So, what evidence do you have for your claims?

        This while the US suffers it worst long-term unemployment since the great depression.

        The largest class of unemployed people in the US does not compare to these workers. The vast majority d

      • Visa workers are not "immigrants" they are temporary labor. An immigrant is somebody who leave his/her home country and permenantly settles in another country.

        H1-B is "dual intent" (to immigrate) visa for a reason. A lot of people on H1-B come to the country so that they can apply for a green card here. The only other choice a typical skilled worker has to get American citizenship is green card lottery, which is, well, a lottery - it cannot be relied upon as a definite path to citizenship.

  • The mistake was making a program that

    "allows foreign science, technology, engineering and math grads to work in the U.S. for 29 months without a work visa"

    It's much better politics to create a special "29 month education investment repayment work visa" to "allow certain foreign science, technology, engineering, and math graduates to use their valuable skills in the United States, thereby improving American industries and the Untied States economy."

    Same result, less political opposition.

  • wasn't this same person or was it FBI said foreign spies are infiltrating universities?

    "Attracting the best and brightest international talent to our colleges and universities and enabling them to contribute to their professional growth is an important part of our nation's economic, scientific and technological competitiveness," explained DHS Chief Janet Napolitano.

    Going back to original topic of bringing in foreign nationals, I think real problem is universities are getting too used to them paying full tuition and pricing out domestic students. Then once we educate these foreign nationals, we kick them out (then their native country gets benefit of their education).

    But on question of spies, other countries don't need to send spies because we export our technology and techniques

  • by PPH (736903)

    That's about the right amount of time to run them through the espionage training program at Langley. And to teach them how to use a shoe phone, the cone of silence and other equipment.

  • If you want a visa, if you want the privilege of visiting, attending college or university, or working in the USA, then you should expect to meet some significant standards.

    1. You must not be in the habit of initiating force or fraud, or advocating such. That's why every applicant ought to pass a proper background investigation.

    2. You should expect to have to prove that you're good at something people in the USA want. Do you have an IQ in the top half of a percent? Good. Do you have 5 significant pa

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