September 05, 2005

The Dubya administration's obsession with national security.

It's dragging down the ability of the US to compete in the world economy.

According to a new study from the Migration Policy Institute, problems with the visa program and a lack of coordination between the State Department (which issues visas) and the Homeland Security Department (which secures the borders) are fueling the impression abroad that the US "has become more hostile to visitors." That impression has had a particularly strong effect on the number of foreign students who choose to study in US colleges and universities.

"Losses to tourism and industry have been significant in recent years, with non-immigrant visa applications dropping by 35 percent between 2001 and 2003, international enrollment in U.S. schools for 2003/2004 down for the first time in three decades, and the number of tourists visiting the United States plummeting by over 10 million people between 2000 and 2003," the report says.

"There are also reports of billions of dollars lost in foreign direct investment in the United States and contracts for U.S. exports."

The impact of visa problems on higher education is a major concern.

Ursula Oaks of the Department of Public Policy at the Association of International Educators told IPS, "What we face today is not just a visa problem, it's an 'access' problem -- the myriad still-existing barriers to international students' ability to study here that, taken together, pose a serious challenge for our country."

At a recent symposium to discuss the MPI report, similar concerns were also voiced by Dr. Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. She called recent statistics on international student flows "a sobering reminder of the importance of U.S. visa policy".

Stewart said that last year, international graduate applications declined 28 percent and another five percent so far this year. For the past three years, she said, first-time international graduate student enrollment has declined....

Other countries, she suggested, are capitalising on "the negative image of the U.S. abroad by advertising their programmes outside U.S. embassies. Perhaps more significant are the major investments in graduate education being made worldwide," particularly by the European Union, China and India.

Via Inter Press Service.

Posted by Magpie at September 5, 2005 02:27 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |