By Daniel Robison/WNED of Innovation Trail
SUNY officials are under financial pressure to fill their science, technology, engineering, and math classrooms. The long term plan: Get American students interested at a young age in science and technology. While SUNY waits for that effort to pay off, they’ll recruit more ready-made STEM enrollees, like international students from places like India, China and Russia.
“It’s a no-brainer that we should be recruiting those students in these programs. Because the programs will then have students, faculty will be employed, and the programs continue to prosper and grow,” said Mitch Leventhal, SUNY Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs.
International students pay two and a half times more tuition than in-state students which SUNY admits helps subsidize falling American enrollment in math and science programs. Only 12 percent of SUNY degrees last year were awarded to students in so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. That’s well below the national average.
Leventhal and other state education officials sing the same refrain of using SUNY as an economic driver, mostly with its STEM graduates. But there’s a downside to the international recruits. They return home. With poor job prospects stateside and student visas expiring not long after graduation, many now opt to leave.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher offers a few possible fixes: “Incentivize their staying here. Help them buy their houses. Invest in their research. Hook them up with other entrepreneurs. There are things we can do without a great deal of cost that pay attention to our need to keep international students here. Because conditions have changed and they can go home.”