How immigration reform affects college town economy

With news of immigration reforms spreading, support has been coming from numerous places. This week, Florida university presidents are among the voices pleading for change. Most believe that economies surrounding college campuses rely on graduating students. However, when foreign students graduate, they have to leave, creating a disparity in the workforce. There are positions to fill, but those projected to take on the open roles are unable to do so.

In a letter to the state delegation, 18 universities argued for the necessity of retaining their international students.

“As leaders of Florida’s universities and colleges, educating the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, and global pioneers, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as the center of innovation and prosperity: our inability under current United States immigration policy to retain and capitalize on the talented individuals we are training in our universities and colleges,” the letter from 18 university and college presidents reads.

A major area of concern is in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – where available jobs outnumber students graduating. The letter argued that foreign-born students generate STEM-based job growth. The writers felt that Florida’s economy will fail without foreign students to fill those jobs. Even worse is that many students fly home after graduating and end up working for competing companies.

“They go there and work to compete against American industry on the global market. It makes absolutely no sense.” Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, told the Florida Courier.

As STEM jobs are expected to grow by 17 percent by 2018, it is no wonder Florida’s university and college presidents are feeling urgency. Less than half of students graduating high school are at a high enough level in math to pursue a math-heavy degree in college. Less than a third are at the proper science level, so they avoid the STEM fields. The immediate answer for university presidents is to allow foreign students to stay and take the open jobs as they believe this will help the economy in the near future.