Avoid Talent Drain: Why California Should Retain Foreign Students

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Avoid Talent Drain: Why California Should Retain Foreign Students
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A Stanford University graduation ceremony

COMMENTARY | In a matter that affects the most populous state, California, the Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are getting behind changes that would pave the way for highly educated and skilled foreign students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to remain in the United States after earning their advanced degrees here.

Currently, our nation's leading universities -- including many in California -- seek to enroll exceptionally bright students but then lose them to competing nations with more relaxed immigration laws. This anomaly was once again mentioned in President Obama's inaugural address.

Calling it a "Startup Visa," it is a step forward by the DHS to ensure that the United States has the world's most highly skilled workforce. Talented graduates are sorely needed by American employers, who indicate that there simply are not enough Americans of this caliber to fill all the roles necessary.

The optional practical training period of 12 months has a proposed extension of 17 months for F-1 STEM graduates and eventually their spouses. There is work to be done to include more degrees in emerging fields: agriculture, sustainable solutions, and why not the humanities?

As part of comprehensive immigration reform, higher education rules need to be revised. Our nation has always benefited from a free-flow of information and ideas across borders beyond our own, and it makes no sense for us to invest in, then divest ourselves of, the talented individuals who are attracted to the USA.

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