Jan 162011
 
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It’s happening: Lou Dobbs’ dream come true and Silicon Valley’s worst nightmare.

We’re already seeing the reverse brain drain as smart immigrants take their US educations and experience building companies and creating technology back to their home countries.  But now, xenophobia and the lack of any sensible H-1B visa policy is keeping the world’s brightest minds from coming to the U.S. in the first place.

U.S. grad school admissions for would-be international students plummeted this year, according to the Council of Graduate Schools—the first decline in five years.  The decline was 3% on average, thanks to increases from China and the Middle East, but some countries saw double-digit declines in interest in a U.S. education. Applicants from India and South Korea fell 12% and 9% respectively—with students turning their sights on schools in Asia and Europe instead.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Much of the world’s economic growth—hence, jobs—is in emerging markets, the schools are far cheaper and in many cases competitive academically, and then there’s the H-1B issue. If America won’t allow a PhD just trained in our top schools to work here and contribute to the economy—why come here and take on the student loans to begin with?

Make no mistake: This is a huge blow for the United States, and particularly Silicon Valley. It’s killing diversity in graduate schools at a time future business leaders most need to understand other countries, especially Asian ones. Xenophobic, anonymous cowards may leave as much bile in the comments as they want: The reality is one out of every four tech companies is started by an immigrant. In the tech industry, immigrants have created more high paying jobs than they’ve “stolen.”

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