America’s Real Immigration Problem

I have noted in several columns that America’s future immigration problem won’t be too much – but too little – immigration, especially in the so-called skilled category. That’s because as the major donor countries such as India and China liberalize their economies and offer more opportunities at home, these immigrants won’t have to travel to America to live the American dream. They’ll be able to do so right at home near their loved ones. The best evidence for this trend so far has come from Duke-Harvard researcher Vivek Wadhwa – himself a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur – who found that emigres from these countries are returning home in virtually unprecedented numbers.

Now Business Week is reporting that international applications for MBAs are way down for the first time in five years in the country’s business schools. Purdue’s Krannert School of Management has experienced a 30% drop whereas Indiana University, Emory and University of Connecticut are reporting a 5% to 15% drop in international enrollment.

“Students from India and China ordinarily account for a large portion of the international applicant pool, but are increasingly deciding to study at home, where a growing number of high-quality MBA programs have emerged in the past decade,” Dave Wilson, president of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), an international association of business schools and sponsor of the GMAT, the b-school admissions exam, told Business Week.

Given that America owes its global technological edge to its ability to attract the best and the brightest from around the world, the rational response to this declining interest would be to roll out the welcome mat and liberally hand out visas to incoming foreign students. But rationality is a scarce commodity among our immigration authorities who, as it turns out, are becoming even more tight-fisted.

Reports Business Week:

Obtaining a student visa is turning out to be more of a problem this year on some business school campuses than in the past. Jay Bryant, admissions director at the Thunderbird School of Global Management (Thunderbird Full-Time MBA Profile), says he has noticed that more students this summer are running into visa roadblocks when visiting U.S. embassies in their respective countries. The school, known for its globally diverse student body, has managed to keep international enrollment at a steady level, with non-U.S. students comprising 51% of the incoming class this fall. But Bryant says he worries that the figure could decline if students can’t get visas in time for the start of the school year.

But America’s myopia will just make it easier for its competitors to scoop up this talent, especially since they are fast relaxing their immigration policies, as I noted in this Wall Street Journal column.