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Implications for the Nation's High Education System' which was released 
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United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

January 2007: 

Highlights of a GAO Forum: 

Global Competitiveness: Implications for the Nation's Higher Education 
System: 

Global Competitiveness Forum: 

GAO-07-135SP: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-135SP. 

Why GAO Convened this Forum: 

The United States has long been one of the most desired higher 
education destinations for international students. Students from other 
countries bring needed skills to the increasingly knowledge-based U.S. 
economy, build bridges between the United States and their own 
countries, and make other valuable contributions. Yet recent trends and 
changes after September 11, 2001, have raised concerns about whether 
the United States will continue to attract an appropriate share of 
talented international students to its universities and to its 
workforce after they graduate. 

In order to better understand issues related to global competitiveness 
and international students, the Comptroller General convened selected 
national leaders and experts in September 2006 to discuss current 
trends in international student enrollment in the United States and 
abroad. Participants were asked to explore (1) what is known about the 
potential impact of these trends, (2) challenges the United States 
faces in attracting international students, and (3) policies and 
strategies the country can pursue to compete for international students 
while also maintaining the nationís security. Invitees to the forum 
included experts from government, universities, research institutions, 
higher education organizations, and industry. 

What GAO Found: 

Despite concerns about slowing international student enrollment after 
September 11, participants generally said enrollments appeared to be 
rebounding, and the United States remains a highly desirable 
destination for higher education. However, the U.S. share of 
international students worldwide has declined, partly because of 
expanding higher education options abroad and growing competition from 
countries with coordinated recruiting strategies. Participants 
expressed concern that the country may face increased challenges 
attracting international students in the future. 

Participants said that in addition to facing challenges from abroad, 
the United States faces a number of internal issues that could pose 
challenges in recruiting talented students. They noted that the United 
States is disadvantaged because it lacks an integrated, strategic 
approach to recruiting and retaining international students. They also 
said high tuition costs and growing costs for universities related to 
recruiting international students may make it more difficult to attract 
students. In addition, they identified real and perceived barriers 
created by U.S. immigration policy, saying that neither the 
nonimmigrant visa process nor the permanent immigration system 
adequately serves U.S. efforts to attract international students and 
high-skill workers. 

Participants stated that the country needs to take the following steps 
to ensure that U.S. higher education continues to attract talented 
international students: 

* Develop a national strategic plan: They generally agreed that the 
United States should work to develop a national strategic plan for 
recruiting international students and should improve coordination and 
communication among the federal government and other organizations as 
well as with international students.
* Consider changes to the U.S. immigration system: Many recommended a 
reevaluation of the U.S. immigration system to remove barriers for 
talented international students, for example, by reconsidering the 
requirement that student visa applicants indicate an intent to return 
to their home countries after completing their studies.
* Explore new sources of international students: A number of 
participants suggested that the United States explore new sources of 
international students, such as in developing countries. 

Participants also said the country should cultivate its domestic 
capacity to strengthen its global competitiveness. For example, it 
could improve access to higher education for U.S. students, promote 
studying abroad, and encourage U.S. students to study in science and 
technology fields. 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-135SP]. 

To view the full product click on the link above. For more information, 
contact Cornelia Ashby at 202-512-7215 or ashbyc@gao.gov. 

[End of Section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Introduction from the Comptroller General of the United States: 

Background: 

Participants Said International Student Enrollment in the United States 
Shows Signs of Rebounding, but Increasing Global Competition Poses 
Significant Future Challenges: 

The United States Also Faces Challenges in Attracting Talented 
International Students Because of Internal Factors: 

Participants Said the United States Should Take Action to Continue 
Attracting International Students and to Strengthen U.S. 
Competitiveness: 

Appendix I: List of Participants: 

Appendix II: Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Related GAO Products: 

Figures: 

Figure 1: Estimated Number of International Students Enrolled in U.S. 
Higher Education, 1984/1985 to 2005/2006: 

Figure 2: Estimated Percentage of All International Higher Education 
Students Enrolled in a Selection of Countries by Destination, 2000 and 
2004: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Introduction from the Comptroller General of the United States: 

Over 2 million students worldwide study outside of their country of 
origin and make economic and foreign policy contributions to their host 
countries. The United States has long been a global leader in higher 
education and one of the most desired destinations for students from 
other countries. However, several trends have raised concerns about the 
extent to which we will be able to continue to attract an appropriate 
share of the most talented international students to our universities 
and colleges, and to our workforce after they graduate. International 
student enrollment in the United States has slowed in recent years in 
comparison to that in other countries. In addition, when the United 
States tightened nonimmigrant visa[Footnote 1] policies and procedures 
in an effort to protect our nation's security after the tragic events 
of September 11, 2001, some students may have been discouraged from 
coming here to study. Moreover, the global landscape of higher 
education is changing and providing more alternatives for students, as 
other countries and for-profit universities expand their educational 
capacity, universities on different continents form alliances, and 
technology-based distance learning opportunities increase. 

Increased global competition makes it particularly important that the 
federal government strike the proper balance among protecting our 
national security interests, ensuring our long-term competitiveness, 
encouraging growth in the developing world, and building bridges with 
other nations and their people. The United States has relied on 
undergraduate and graduate students from other countries to support 
both economic and foreign policy interests. International students have 
been important sources of innovation and productivity in our 
increasingly knowledge-based economy and have brought needed research 
and workforce skills and strengthened our labor force. In some math and 
science fields, more than one-third of the advanced degrees in the 
United States are awarded to international students. Even if students 
return home after their studies, such exchanges support federal public 
diplomacy efforts and can improve understanding among nations. 

GAO convened this forum to bring together leaders from government, 
universities, research institutions, higher education organizations, 
and industry to discuss the impact of emerging trends in higher 
education on U.S. global competitiveness and to examine how the United 
States can best ensure that it continues to attract people with needed 
skills and to build bridges with other nations. This forum was designed 
for the participants to discuss these issues openly, and without 
individual attribution. Participants were selected for their subject 
matter expertise, but also to represent a variety of perspectives. The 
format was chosen in order to maximize the opportunity for a rich, 
interactive dialogue. 

This report summarizes the ideas and themes that emerged at the forum, 
the collective discussion of participants, and comments received from 
participants based on a draft of this report. As such, this report is 
not intended to reflect the views of GAO. 

I want to thank all of the forum participants for taking the time to 
share their knowledge, insights, and perspectives. These will be of 
value to the American people and to their representatives in Congress 
as they face the challenge of charting a course to maintain global 
competitiveness through the nation's higher education system. They also 
provide insight for future work at GAO. I look forward to working with 
the forum's participants on important issues in the future. 

Signed by: 

David M. Walker: 
Comptroller General of the United States: 

January 23, 2007: 

Background: 

The United States has historically promoted efforts to attract 
international students to its higher education institutions. Several 
federal agencies help support these efforts. For example, the 
Department of State manages the student visa application process, 
administers some student exchange programs, offers grants to facilitate 
international exchanges, and provides information to potential and 
current international students on its Web site and through advising 
centers located around the world. The Department of Homeland Security 
enforces immigration laws and oversees applications for changes in 
immigration status. It also administers the Student and Exchange 
Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that 
collects information on nonimmigrants that enter the United States with 
student and exchange visitor visas, as well as their dependents. In 
addition, the Department of Education sponsors initiatives to encourage 
academic exchanges between the United States and other countries, and 
the Department of Commerce offers various activities to help U.S. 
educational institutions market their programs abroad. 

International students who wish to study in the United States must 
apply for visas, and additional steps are necessary if they remain in 
the country to work after their studies are completed. Most full-time 
students enter the United States under temporary visas, which usually 
permit them to stay for the duration of their studies but may require 
renewals if they return home before their studies are complete. Among 
the long-standing requirements for students applying for a visa is that 
they demonstrate an "intent to return" to their country of origin after 
they complete their studies. Graduates who wish to stay and work in the 
United States beyond the time allowed by their student visas generally 
need to receive approval for a change in status, for example, through a 
temporary work visa such as an H-1B visa for high-skill workers or 
through permanent residency. The number of H-1B visas that are 
available each year is restricted by law, although there are exemptions 
for certain individuals, including those who hold a master's degree or 
higher from a U.S. institution. 

Following September 11, the United States made some changes that made 
it more difficult for foreign nationals, including international 
students, to apply for a visa. For example, face-to-face interviews 
were mandated for most applicants, and the number of security reviews 
for students and scholars in certain science and technology fields 
increased. In addition, many students must pay an additional fee to 
fund SEVIS. These changes, made to help protect our nation's security 
interests, may have fueled perceptions that some foreign groups are 
unwelcome here. The Departments of State and Homeland Security have 
made some adjustments to try to help ease the burden, such as 
expediting interviews for students, allowing visas to be issued to 
students longer in advance of their school start date, and extending 
the length of time that some visa clearances are valid. 

Although the United States continues to have more international 
students than any other country, recent trends point to some important 
changes in enrollment patterns. Figure 1 shows that after several 
decades of fairly steady increase, the number of international students 
enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions leveled off and even 
dropped slightly after 2001. In addition, as shown in figure 2, the 
U.S. share of international students worldwide decreased between 2000 
and 2004. During the same time period, the share of international 
students studying in other countries such as Japan and Australia 
increased. Though subtle, these trends have raised questions about the 
United States' ability to continue attracting the most talented 
international students, and about the types of adjustments that may be 
necessary to remain competitive in the future. 

Figure 1: Estimated Number of International Students Enrolled in U.S. 
Higher Education, 1984/1985 to 2005/2006: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: Institute of International Education (IIE) data. 

Note: The most recent year for which data are available is 2005/2006. 

[End of figure] 

Figure 2: Estimated Percentage of All International Higher Education 
Students Enrolled in a Selection of Countries by Destination, 2000 and 
2004: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 
data. 

Note: Information in this graph includes only those countries for which 
both 2000 and 2004 data were available, except for Canada, for which 
the year of reference is 2002. GAO did not assess the reliability of 
the data for the percentage of students enrolled in schools outside the 
United States. Also, the definition of international students is not 
uniform across countries. 

[A] Other OECD countries include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, 
Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, 
the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, 
Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. 

[B] Non-OECD countries include Brazil, Chile, India, Malaysia, the 
Russian Federation, South Africa, and others. 

[End of figure] 

Participants Said International Student Enrollment in the United States 
Shows Signs of Rebounding, but Increasing Global Competition Poses 
Significant Future Challenges: 

Despite concerns about slowing international student enrollment after 
September 11, participants said U.S. international student enrollments 
appeared to be rebounding, and the country remains a highly desirable 
destination for higher education. However, the U.S. share of 
international students worldwide has declined, partly because of 
growing competition, and participants expressed concern that the United 
States may face increased challenges attracting international students 
in the future. 

Enrollment Numbers Appear to Be Rebounding to Pre-September 11 Levels: 

Some participants said enrollments of international students studying 
in U.S. higher education institutions appear to be rebounding 
nationwide, meeting or exceeding pre-September 11 levels. Despite 
concerns about the impact of September 11 security and visa 
restrictions, one participant said international graduate student 
numbers seem to be returning to their historical levels at both the 
master's and PhD levels. Another reported that student exchange and 
visitor visas and visa renewal applications have met or exceeded 2001 
levels, and increases appear to have been particularly strong among 
certain groups of students. For example, the numbers of U.S. visas 
issued to students from the Middle East nearly doubled between fiscal 
years 2005 and 2006. Participants said some individual universities 
also have had increases in international student enrollments, 
particularly among students from developing countries. 

However, a few participants were less optimistic about these trends and 
questioned whether enrollment had increased in all U.S. colleges and 
universities. One predicted that international student enrollments 
would remain flat. In addition, a couple of participants said that 
recent enrollment increases have been less pronounced at lesser-known 
institutions, possibly because of the high cost of recruiting 
international students. 

Regardless of the direction of the enrollment trends, participants 
noted that little is known about the quality of international students 
the United States is attracting. It is possible the country could 
maintain overall international student enrollment but attract fewer of 
the best and brightest students worldwide. However, data on the quality 
of current international students are limited. 

Many participants focused on maintaining or increasing the numbers of 
international students in the United States, and some noted that in the 
past, international students and scholars have made substantial 
contributions to certain fields of research, such as biology. However, 
one participant noted that over a decade ago, some thought the country 
had more than a sufficient share of international students. 

The United States Is Still Regarded as a Highly Desirable Destination 
for Higher Education and Has Distinct Advantages in Attracting 
International Students: 

Participants said U.S. higher education is still regarded as the most 
desired study destination for many students. They identified four key 
competitive advantages the United States has in attracting 
international students and remaining a prime destination for students: 

≤ Educational quality: Participants said international students are 
attracted to U.S. higher education in large part because of its high 
quality, and its graduate programs in particular are seen as among the 
best in the world. Some said the U.S. merit-based system and strong 
research funding also attract international students. Others said the 
diversity of foreign-born faculty in U.S. universities was a strength 
of the system. 

≤ Job opportunities: Participants said international students are often 
drawn to the United States because of possible job opportunities in the 
country after graduation, providing a chance to enhance their skills 
and obtain an economic return on their educational investment. 

≤ English language: Some noted that many international students come to 
the United States to learn English, which is used internationally in 
science and other fields. 

≤ Democracy: They also said many international students are attracted 
to the U.S. environment of democracy and open debate. 

However, Other Countries Are Capturing an Increasing Share of 
International Students, Signaling the Possibility of Challenges Ahead: 

Participants noted that the number of international students worldwide 
has expanded and is expected to continue expanding in the future, but 
the U.S. share of the pie has declined since the late 1990s. Because of 
growing competition and other changes, participants expressed concern 
that the United States may face increased challenges attracting 
international students in the future. 

Participants generally agreed that the United States' declining share 
is largely explained by several factors, including increasing global 
competition for students: 

≤ More higher education options worldwide: Participants said worldwide 
educational capacity is growing quickly, providing students more higher 
education options in more countries. One participant noted that China 
now has hundreds of thousands of PhD students enrolled in its own 
universities. And international students seeking degree programs in 
English have more options, as universities in non-English-speaking 
countries, particularly in Europe, increasingly offer courses and even 
entire degree programs in English. In addition, international students 
often have the option of obtaining a U.S. education through branches of 
U.S. universities in their own countries, and participants said there 
is demand for U.S. universities to establish additional overseas 
programs. They noted that as students have greater options worldwide, 
it may be harder to attract talented international students to study in 
the United States. 

≤ Additional recruiting strategies abroad: Participants said some other 
countries appear more committed to attracting international students 
than the United States and have developed coordinated strategies to 
recruit them. In addition, some countries are specifically recruiting 
and providing scholarships to international students with fewer 
resources who may not be able to afford U.S. higher education. However, 
one participant said the United States' advantages have kept it more 
attractive to international students than countries with more 
comprehensive recruitment strategies. 

≤ Expanding job opportunities abroad: While participants agreed job 
opportunities remain a strong incentive for international students to 
choose the United States, they said expanding job and financial 
opportunities in other countries may be eroding this advantage, making 
international students less likely to come to the United States and 
less likely to stay and work after they graduate. One participant 
provided an example of the impact of expanding opportunities abroad, 
noting that U.S. students from Korea and Japan increasingly return to 
job opportunities in their own countries. He speculated that students 
from China and India might similarly be more likely to return home in 
the future, given expanding opportunities in those countries. 

≤ Increasing institutional partnerships: One participant said the 
establishment of new institutional partnerships and government 
arrangements may have changed the way students make decisions about 
international study, possibly hurting U.S. market share. Instead of 
individual students choosing where to study, students now often move in 
large numbers to particular programs based on established university 
and governmental relationships. For example, the participant said a 
reciprocal agreement on international education between China and 
France could encourage students in each country to study in the other, 
rather than in the United States or elsewhere. 

The United States Also Faces Challenges in Attracting Talented 
International Students Because of Internal Factors: 

In addition to the challenges posed by expanding higher education 
options in other countries, the United States has a number of its own 
issues that could pose challenges in recruiting talented international 
students, including lack of an integrated national approach to 
recruitment, high tuition costs, growing costs for universities related 
to recruiting students, and real and perceived barriers created by U.S. 
immigration policy. 

U.S. Higher Education Institutions Face Issues That Could Present 
Challenges in Recruiting International Students: 

Participants noted that the United States is disadvantaged because, 
unlike some other countries, it lacks an integrated, strategic approach 
to recruiting and retaining international students. Currently, 
responsibility for different policies related to international students 
is shared across federal agencies, including the Department of State 
and the Department of Homeland Security. One participant said that 
without an approach that integrates immigration, student recruitment, 
and other related policies, the United States may run the risk of 
losing its appeal to international students and weakening its global 
competitiveness. Participants also said that advising centers run by 
the Department of State that are intended to aid and attract 
international students have fewer resources than those in some other 
countries. 

Participants also said high tuition costs may discourage some 
international students from coming to U.S. higher education 
institutions.[Footnote 2] Several said higher costs in the United 
States make it more difficult to compete with other countries for 
students, particularly for low-income students who may be unable to 
afford tuition. In addition, one participant said the costs of entrance 
testing, such as the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Test of 
English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), may also be a barrier for some 
international students. High costs may lead students to explore ways of 
entering the country that do not require them to enroll in regular 
degree programs--one participant said some students come only for 
summer study and job programs. 

In addition, universities face costs in recruiting and enrolling highly 
qualified international students, including the costs of reaching out 
to potential students, entering information in SEVIS, and assisting 
students in obtaining visas. Some participants said university costs, 
including the costs of assisting with visas, have grown. Such costs may 
be difficult for some universities--particularly smaller schools--to 
support, and one participant noted that university counseling and 
recruitment activities tend to receive insufficient funding. 

U.S. Immigration and Visa Policies Create Real and Perceived Barriers 
for International Students and High-Skill Workers: 

Several participants said the overall immigration system for both 
nonimmigrants and immigrants does not adequately serve U.S. efforts to 
attract international students and high-skill workers. 

The nonimmigrant visa system has problems that hinder international 
students' enrollment in U.S. higher education institutions and efforts 
to later work in the United States, according to participants. While 
several said that obtaining visas was not a major barrier for 
international students and that post-September 11 issues had eased 
somewhat, others said there are perceptions that the U.S. student visa 
process is difficult and less transparent than in other countries. 
Participants identified the following problems: 

≤ Difficulty obtaining visas in some regions: Some participants noted 
that obtaining a student visa is particularly difficult in specific 
parts of the world, partly because of security concerns. 

≤ Perceptions of visa refusal rates: If international students have the 
impression that they may not receive a visa, some may think that 
applying is not worth the cost. However, one participant noted that 
fewer student visa applications are being refused than before September 
11. 

≤ Burdensome visa renewal process: Participants said the visa renewal 
process can be burdensome, requiring many students to reapply for entry 
to the United States if they return home before their studies are 
complete. 

≤ Intent-to-return requirement: They questioned the requirement that 
student visa applicants prove their intent to return home after 
completing their studies, and one said it was not realistic for visa 
officers or students to know with certainty students' future plans to 
stay in the United States or return home. 

≤ H-1B visa cap: Because of the limited availability of H-1B visas and 
other work visas, international students who want to work in the United 
States after graduating may have difficulty staying. 

Furthermore, participants said some international students feel they 
are not welcome in the United States, and one said perceptions may be 
stronger deterrents than actual barriers for international students. 
One participant said that when the country communicates it is 
welcoming, international students have been much more interested in 
coming to study. 

While the participants mainly focused on international students, they 
also discussed attracting high-skill workers from around the world as 
part of overall U.S. global competitiveness. In particular, 
participants said the permanent immigration system does not facilitate 
high-skill workers coming to the United States. U.S. citizens' family 
members applying for permanent residency, who account for many of the 
high-skill foreigners entering the country, could make valuable 
contributions as part of the U.S. workforce yet may face long delays. 
For example, siblings have long average waits to enter the country and 
often are not permitted to immigrate until they are older and no longer 
able to contribute. 

Finally, a few participants were critical of the way in which decisions 
about the numbers of immigrants and visitors admitted to the United 
States are made. They said policy changes often have been based on data 
from the past rather than on demographic projections about the future, 
and some said piecemeal attempts to fix the immigration system are not 
sufficient. For example, one participant said that an attempt to 
increase the number of visas available in a particular year would not 
adequately address the need for more comprehensive policy changes. 

Participants Said the United States Should Take Action to Continue 
Attracting International Students and to Strengthen U.S. 
Competitiveness: 

Participants stated that the country needs to take steps to ensure that 
U.S. higher education continues to attract talented international 
students. They generally agreed that the United States should work to 
develop a national strategic plan for recruiting international students 
and should improve coordination and communication among the federal 
government and other organizations, as well as with international 
students. Many also recommended a reevaluation of the U.S. immigration 
system, while a number of participants suggested that the United States 
should both explore new sources of international students and cultivate 
its domestic capacity. 

The United States Should Develop a National Strategic Plan for 
Recruiting International Students to Improve Overall Coordination and 
Communication, According to Participants: 

Participants said the United States should improve coordination and 
communication about international students and global competitiveness 
among key players, including federal agencies, universities, nonprofit 
organizations, and the private sector. Although participants noted that 
certain federal agencies already have internal, agency-level plans 
related to international students and global competitiveness, many 
participants agreed that a national strategic plan for recruiting and 
retaining international students is needed. This strategy should 
encompass relevant federal agencies such as the Departments of State, 
Education, Homeland Security, and Commerce. The plan should also 
establish a coherent set of policies to address issues related to 
international students. 

Some participants indicated it was important to develop policies that 
were realistic and could be implemented fully and quickly, while 
another suggested that any strategy needs strong presidential 
leadership behind it. Participants also said that international student 
recruitment by both federal agencies and universities needs to be more 
proactive, rather than universities simply "opening the mail," and that 
existing federal advising centers and other tools could be better 
leveraged to attract international students. Fostering collaborations 
and alliances among different types of higher education institutions, 
including research universities and community colleges, was suggested 
to establish a more coordinated, effective approach for recruiting 
international students. Several participants also agreed that it is 
crucial to create a "national sense of urgency"--such as that inspired 
by Sputnik--around the concept of competitiveness. 

Participants also said federal agencies may need to improve 
communication with international students to ensure students are aware 
of available federal resources. For example, the Department of Homeland 
Security has a Web site that provides information on visa and 
immigration issues to international students and to schools, but one 
individual felt that greater effort may be needed to ensure users are 
aware of the information available. Another participant said it was 
sometimes difficult for students to obtain information on policies such 
as immigration rules. 

Participants said that in addition to developing a strategic plan, the 
United States should take additional steps to improve federal 
coordination and communication about international students and global 
competitiveness. In particular, some indicated that it would be useful 
to clearly define the people, roles, and issues relevant to the global 
competitiveness of higher education in order to promote broader 
discourse on the topic. Participants noted that federal agencies 
already have some efforts in place to foster coordination and 
communication. For example, the Departments of Education and State held 
a joint summit on international education with college and university 
presidents that included a discussion of international education goals. 

Efforts to improve coordination and communication rely heavily on 
obtaining and sharing information, and many of the participants agreed 
that the federal government should collect more and better information 
on international students to strengthen decision making. Participants 
noted that data tend not to be timely, making it difficult to evaluate 
policy proposals. Moreover, while statistical databases like SEVIS, 
maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, provide useful 
information on international students studying in the United 
States,[Footnote 3] more key people need to be made aware of its 
capabilities and encouraged to use it. 

In this respect, participants recommended a number of improvements to 
current data collection and analysis, including the following: 

≤ Disaggregating data to analyze where students come from, how long 
they stay, and for what purpose they are here. Doing so could help in 
making more informed decisions. 

≤ Collecting qualitative data that could provide valuable context for 
quantitative data. 

≤ Developing uniform, consensus-based social and economic indicators of 
U.S. higher education's competitiveness. 

≤ Filling gaps in a number of nationally conducted surveys. Such gaps 
include the absence of information on foreign-born graduate students in 
the National Science Foundation's Survey of Doctorate Recipients. 

Participants Suggested the United States' Immigration System Should Be 
Reevaluated in order to Remove Barriers for Talented Foreigners: 

Several agreed that immigration reform is necessary for ensuring the 
United States retains access to the most talented individuals, 
including by addressing the concerns described earlier regarding the 
visa renewal process and the intent-to-return requirement. At the same 
time, participants acknowledged that efforts to strengthen 
competitiveness through immigration reforms need to strike a balance 
between economic gains and national security. 

Several options were raised for reforming the student visa process, 
including the following: 

≤ Extending the periods during which visas are valid so that students 
who want to travel outside the country do not have to return home and 
reapply for entry back into the United States.[Footnote 4] 

≤ Reconsidering the requirement that student visa applicants prove 
their intent to return to their home countries. 

≤ Expanding work opportunities for international students and their 
spouses.[Footnote 5] 

A number of participants also recommended system changes to facilitate 
permanent residency and citizenship for talented international 
students: 

≤ Creating a transitional visa that bridges the gap between the current 
temporary and permanent ones. 

≤ Giving international students studying at American universities 
partial credit toward their permanent residency time requirement for 
obtaining citizenship. Currently, the time that an international 
student spends studying in the United States does not count toward the 
5-year permanent residency requirement for citizenship. 

In addition, participants said the country should reconsider current 
policies that keep high-skill workers, including highly skilled 
siblings, from promptly entering the United States. 

The United States Should Explore New Sources of International Students 
as well as Cultivate Both Domestic and International Talent, 
Participants Said: 

Participants stated that the United States needs to look at new markets 
around the world as sources of future undergraduate and graduate 
students, while noting the need to continue embracing students from 
traditional markets like India and China. For example, one participant 
recommended that the United States consider following other countries' 
lead in recruiting students from developing nations, notably those in 
Africa. Another suggested establishing public-private partnerships to 
assist low-income students from abroad in accessing U.S. higher 
education. A third participant suggested that such efforts build upon 
existing federal activities, such as the Departments of State and 
Education's participation at international forums. Moreover, two 
individuals advocated for a stronger U.S. presence in higher education 
institutions around the world, including greater "forward deployment" 
of U.S. universities in other countries. 

Several of the participants pointed out that while recruiting and 
retaining international talent is important, so too is fostering 
domestic capacity to ensure that the United States' economy remains 
globally competitive. While it was noted that several federal agencies, 
such as the Departments of Education and Labor, have developed 
initiatives to enhance U.S. competitiveness, participants stressed that 
more could be done. One participant noted the need to improve access to 
higher education, particularly for families in poverty. Another 
suggested that the federal government should continue encouraging U.S. 
students to study critical foreign languages and that more students 
ought to be encouraged to study abroad. Several others suggested that 
in light of the challenges, the United States should do more to 
encourage U.S. students to study science fields. One participant 
presented figures indicating that the share of PhDs in science and 
technology in the United States held by Americans has dropped 
substantially over the past 25 years, and that in engineering the 
figure may now be as low as 40 percent. However, another participant 
questioned whether students would actually be drawn to these sectors, 
given their current pay structures, and observed that undergraduate 
students in engineering are increasingly taking up graduate study in 
law and business, fields in which the pay is more attractive. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: List of Participants: 

Moderator: 

David M. Walker: 
Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office: 

Participants: 

William T. Archey: 
President and Chief Executive Officer: 
AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association): 

Anne Campbell: 
Senior Adviser: 
Office of Postsecondary Education: 
U.S. Department of Education: 

Jesse G. Delia: 
Interim Associate Provost for International Affairs and Executive 
Director International Research Relations: 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: 

Doris Dirks: 
Chair, Human Diversity Committee: 
National Association of Graduate-Professional Students: 

Joseph Duffey: 
Senior Vice President: 
Laureate International Universities: 
Laureate Education, Inc. 

Tony Edson: 
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services: 
Bureau of Consular Affairs: 
U.S. Department of State: 

Thomas A. Farrell: 
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Programs: 
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: 
U.S. Department of State: 

Susan Geary: 
Director, Student and Exchange Visitor Program: 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement: 
U.S. Department of Homeland Security: 

Allan E. Goodman: 
President and Chief Executive Officer: 
Institute of International Education: 

Peter Henderson: 
Director, Board on Higher Education and Workforce: 
National Research Council, the National Academies: 

Shirley Ann Jackson: 
President: 
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: 

Marlene M. Johnson: 
Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer: 
NAFSA: Association of International Educators: 

Theodore H. Kattouf: 
President and Chief Executive Officer: 
America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, Inc. 

Peter Lee: 
Vice Provost for Research: 
Carnegie Mellon University: 

Susan Forbes Martin: 
Executive Director and Donald G. Herzberg Chair in International 
Migration: 
Institute for the Study of International Migration: 
Georgetown University: 

Jennifer McNelly: 
Director, Business Relations Group: 
U.S. Department of Labor: 

Demetrios G. Papademetriou: 
President: 
Migration Policy Institute: 

Mark Regets: 
Senior Analyst: 
National Science Foundation: 

Debra W. Stewart: 
President: 
Council of Graduate Schools: 

Rosalind Swenson: 
Director, Office of Academic Exchanges: 
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: 
U.S. Department of State: 

Brad Thomas: 

Professional Staff Member: 
Committee on Education and the Workforce: 
U.S. House of Representatives: 

David Ward: 
President: 
American Council on Education: 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Contact: 

Cornelia M. Ashby, Director (202) 512-7215: 

Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact above, Sherri Doughty, Assistant Director; 
Anne Welch, Co-Analyst-in-Charge; and Marissa Jones, Co-Analyst-in- 
Charge, managed all aspects of the work. Carlo Salerno, Rachael 
Valliere, Charles Willson, Don Brown, Angela Miles, and Daniele 
Schiffman also made important contributions to organizing the forum and 
producing this report. In addition, Jean McSween assisted with data 
reliability assessment, Mimi Nguyen created the graphics, and James 
Rebbe provided legal assistance. 

[End of section] 

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(130545): 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] The United States also issues visas to those who intend to 
immigrate to the United States. Unless otherwise stated, we use the 
term "visa" in this report to refer to nonimmigrant visas only. 

[2] The Educational Policy Institute (EPI) reported in 2005 that U.S. 
higher education was one of the least affordable of 16 higher education 
systems studied. EPI noted that U.S. higher education costs tend to be 
offset by higher incomes and by financial assistance that is more 
generous than in some other countries. However, international students 
generally do not rely on U.S. federal funding to study in the United 
States. According to the Institute of International Education's Open 
Doors 2004/2005 report, which provides data on international student 
mobility patterns from U.S. universities, an estimated 72 percent of 
all international students reported their primary source of funding 
coming from personal and family sources or other sources outside of the 
United States. See Usher, A., and A. Cervenan, Global Higher Education 
Rankings 2005: Affordability and Accessibility in Comparative 
Perspective. Toronto, Ontario: Educational Policy Institute (2005). 
Also see Institute of International Education, Open Doors Report 2005: 
Report on International Educational Exchange. New York (2005). 

[3] Information collected in SEVIS includes the number of students 
coming to the United States from different countries, the geographic 
distribution of international student populations in the United States, 
the number of schools registered in SEVIS, and other data. 

[4] Changes to the periods during which nonimmigrant visas are valid 
may be limited by existing reciprocity agreements between the United 
States and a student's home country. 

[5] Work authorization for most international students and their 
spouses is limited, and many spouses are not permitted to work under 
any circumstances. 

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