Further Compelling Evidence Against “Staple a Green Card”

As most readers of this blog know, I strongly oppose proposals to “staple a green card to the diplomas” of foreign STEM students earning MS or PhD degrees at U.S. universities. Those proposals are based on the premises that (a) we have a shortage of people with STEM grad degrees and (b) the foreign STEM students are Einsteins-in-waiting. I’ve shown numerous times that neither of these premises is valid.

For example, concerning (b) above, foreign students in computer science, putatively the most important STEM field, are on average WEAKER than their American peers: The foreign students file fewer patent applications; they are less likely to work in R&D; and among those with doctorates, they earn their degrees at less prestigious institutions.

Today’s edition of Inside Higher Ed shows data that is quite disturbing concerning (a).

Percent of Doctorate Recipients With Job or Postdoc Commitments, by Field of Study

Field 2004 2009 2014
All 70.0% 69.5% 61.4%
Life sciences 71.2% 66.8% 57.9%
Physical sciences 71.5% 72.1% 63.8%
Social sciences 71.3% 72.9% 68.8%
Engineering 63.6% 66.8% 57.0%
Education 74.6% 71.6% 64.6%
Humanities 63.4% 63.3% 54.3%

So, the new PhDs in engineering aren’t doing much better than those in the humanities. In fact, PhDs in the social sciences and education are doing better than those in any STEM field.

Even some immigration-reform people have endorsed “Staple” as long as it is restricted only to PhDs. The above figures show such views as ill-advised.

And getting back to (b): An Australian reader brought my attention to this article regarding the University of Sydney. The article is mainly about a sudden change of date for a graduation ceremony and resulting hardship on some students from China and their families, but this passage is interesting:

It is the second time in the past year that the university has come under criticism for its treatment of international students. Last year, it is understood the Chinese consulate appealed to the university when 37 per cent of Chinese students were failed in one of the university’s business courses, drawing accusations of bias towards non-native English speakers.

Though it does appear that the Chinese students are getting a raw deal regarding the graduation date, that 37% figure is troubling. As you may recall, I recently discussed a Wall Street Journal article titled “Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on U.S. Campuses,” which among other things cited U.S. faculty who say they are lowering standards in their courses as a result of the low quality of Chinese students.

Even more disturbing is the Chinese consulate’s involvement, protesting that the business course was unfair to the Chinese students. The reader who called my attention to this article added that a professor had told him it is common for Chinese students to berate professors who give them low grades. I recently taught a graduate class in which a Chinese student was quite rude to me, stridently claiming that the (oral) interactive grading for homework was unfair to her, due to language issues. When I told her that two of the three students in the class to whom I gave A+ grades were from China, with English no better than hers, she had to back off. But this student is both weak and has a lousy attitude; we already have enough weak American students with bad attitudes; do we need to import more, via “Staple”?

All of this is quite disconcerting. I must add that it is certainly not consistent with traditional Chinese culture; in the past, a Chinese consulate would not have even considered objecting to the 37% failure rate, out of shame. How things have changed!

As I said in my previous post, there are many truly excellent international students, including from China (over the past weekend I wrote a letter of support for the green card application of one), but it’s clear that a blanket policy like “Staple” is just plain wrong.


11 thoughts on “Further Compelling Evidence Against “Staple a Green Card”

  1. This is very discouraging. One of the aspects of getting a degree is getting overly rigidly classified. When I finished my degree, I looked for a job. I found a position in a related field. There was enough overlap that I was completely qualified, but going from one area to another (in my case, statistics in psychology to statistics in business) was important in getting positions for many persons. From the numbers you are showing, I wonder if that still happens. Certainly we know that the job advertisements which look for that “purple squirrel” require an exact fit of credentials to an overwhelmingly large number of qualifications. Are Ph.D. job searches becoming searches for “purple doctor-squirrels”?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norm: If the “postdocs” were disaggregated from the Ph.D.s with “real jobs” the STEM data would be even worse. U.S. STEM Postdoc gluts are a longstanding problem. Note that 1969 National Academy of Science study “The Invisible University: Postdoctoral Education in the United States” with Richard Bertram Curtis as study director noted that the postdoc population was large and growing in the years before the study was published. The impacts of the 1976 “Eilberg Amendment” and the Immigration Act of 1990 have aggravated the supply gluts. I believe that both legislative changes (demanded by economic elites) should be immediately repealed as “bad law.”

    I believe it is criminal to lure a young person to pursue a STEM Ph.D. when so many are being trained for nonexistent careers. Search for the 1993 Wall Street Journal article, “Black Hole Opens in Scientist Job Rolls” and the 1994 Newsweek article, “No Ph.D.s Need Apply” to learn more of the sickening details.

    Most students will never recover the nominal $1/2 million opportunity cost of earning a STEM Ph.D. Furthermore, since employers have turned the legislative intent of the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 on its head by shunning most STEM professionals over 40 years old, those that pursue Ph.D.s are also frittering away many valuable earning years while they are young. My view is that the B.S. (or even the associate’s degree) should be a student’s terminal degree in this dreadful job market. Being labeled as “overqualified” is very harmful to a young person’s career progression.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Faculty members, natives of China, in microbiology and chemistry at one of my state’s universities find it “necessary” to travel extensively in China to interview postdocs for their labs.None of their US travel lists this as a reason for their travel. Nearly all of the graduate student assistants and post docs in their labs are Chinese.


  4. While I have no data to back it up, there are plenty of American students, and even old farts like myself that could excel given the opportunity to do so.

    Problem is, these words seem to be being driven from our American culture.

    life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth


  5. In these stats we’re seeing the result of allowing economic incentives for business and education to override what is best for US citizens and the country.

    But there is also a rather insidious “good for the country” argument pushed by people like Thomas Friedman in his book “That Used to be Us”. Friedman says our educational system is lousy, other countries are passing us by, and we need more higher education for our citizens. He also says we need to retain the best foreign students (I.e., staple the green card). And he pushes H1b as retaining the best/brightest/etc.

    This point of view seems to prevail with a lot of liberal types, but the stats on best and brightest H1b’s don’t bare out. And these stats on employment undermine higher education, unless we provide students with jobs. Friedman wants, to cynically paraphrase, make America great again. But unfortunately liberal types and the economics of education are doing the exact opposite.


  6. Australia had a fairly major problem with “Green Card Colleges” 10-12 years ago.
    They had a program such than anyone who graduated from an Australian college
    got an automatic Australian Green Card.

    Guess what? Within a year or so, they had dozens of “colleges” in Northern NSW,
    near the nice beaches, filled with international “students”. One of the interesting
    things about these colleges was that many of them had been started in the 1920s,
    and had more-or-less gone broke. When the “college graduate migration program”
    started, these colleges went from a handful of students to hundreds of students,
    in a remarkably short period of time.

    If the US implements a Stapled-Green-Card program, we can expect similar results.


  7. Many universities in the U.S. are strongly biased in favor of foreign and other out-of-state students. This is because they can charge TRIPLE the rate charged to in-state students for tuition. Some states in the U.S. even have “gentlemen’s agreements” with neighbor states, to not “poach” their out-of-state targets. In other words, a high-ranking student in State A may be refused admittance to the in-state college of his/her choice, in order to “force” the student to consider neighboring State B for college… While a similar high-ranking student in State B is given the same raw deal to “force” him/her to apply for college in State A.

    This is a form of *xenofavoritism* that appears purely money-driven, except that the schools rarely work this deal on any in-state students who might complain about ethnic/gender/etc. bias.


  8. Norm and Rest of Crowd,

    This is just a proposal. It is never going to pass. So everyone can cool down. Unless of course there are no new topics to discuss.


  9. ALL foreign workers working in USA are ILLEGAL if their working here “adversely affects the wages or working conditions of Americans similarly employed”



  10. Muslim PhD student from India (Indian Institute of Technology) accuses his UCLA professor of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, then shoots & kills him.


    “…Klug, who was described by friends as a kind and caring man, worked diligently to help Sarkar finish his dissertation and graduate, even though the quality of Sarkar’s work was not stellar, one source said.

    “Bill was extremely generous to this student, who was a subpar student,” the person said.

    In his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 2013, Sarkar expressed gratitude to Klug for his help and support.


    “…A source told the Times that Klug bent over backwards to help Sarkar on his dissertation and to graduate, even though Sarkar’s work wasn’t always high-quality. This source is appalled that Sarkar would later accuse Klug of stealing his code to give to another student: “The idea that somebody took his ideas is absolutely psychotic….”


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