clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Don't restrict foreign students

The May 14 "Chronicle of Higher Education" ran a story by Robin Wilson titled "Ph.D. Programs Face a Paucity of Americans." Wilson says that if you visited just about any physics laboratory at U.S. research universities, you'd find as many foreigners as Americans.

The American Institute of Physics estimates that this year, for the first time, the majority of first-year doctoral students in physics at our universities is foreign. At Penn State University, as is typical at other universities, half the students in its graduate physics program are foreigners.In 1997, foreign students earned 37 percent of all science and engineering doctorates at American universities. By contrast, at most American universities, there are few foreigners getting Ph.D.s in education, cultural studies and history. The evidence clearly demonstrates that the more intellectually challenging a field of study is, the fewer American students.

How do university administrators cope with the multitudes of highly prepared foreign students, particularly Asians? They set admittance quotas against them and create double standards. For example, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's policy is not to exceed 20 percent foreign students in any of its graduate programs. Like other universities, it turns away applications from foreign students whose grades and test scores are higher than their American counterparts. Enrollment is kept up by admitting mediocre American students.

Is discrimination against Asian students, foreign-born or not, acceptable? Probably not among those on the conservative end of the political spectrum but among liberals, it's an OK thing.

You say, "OK, Williams, what do you mean?" In a 1995 Sacramento Bee interview, President Clinton pointed out that excessive reliance on academic qualifications in the admissions process could have dire consequences, warning "there are universities in California that could fill their entire freshman classes with nothing but Asians." That sounds a bit racist to me.

"Williams," you say, "that's just one liberal; the rest are OK." Try this. On a 1997 "Crossfire" show, Bob Beckel -- the liberal co-host of the show -- badgered guest Dr. Abigail Thernstrom as to the effects of California's Proposition 209 outlawing racial quotas in college admissions. Beckel asked: "Would you like to see the UCLA law school 80 percent Asian? Because at the rate it's going, by the year 2007 UCLA will be 80 percent Asian. Will that make you happy?" Neither Clinton's nor Beckel's comments drew fire from America's leftists.

In terms of our future, what foreign students are doing and the achievements they're making is not nearly as important as what American students are not doing.

While American students trail their foreign counterparts academically, they have the highest levels of self-esteem and feel good about their educational achievements. That's sad. They're fools and don't know it.

Creators Syndicate, Inc.